A black teenager has filed a lawsuit against Barneys New York after he was wrongly accused of stealing a belt. The story made the front page of the Daily News on Wednesday, and several customers are speaking out on Barneys racial profiling practices, including top model Tyson Beckford.
Speaking to a news reporter for the channel Pix11, Beckford said that he always gets followed by security agents when he walks into Barneys' Madison Avenue branch. “I might have the most recognizable face in the world," Beckford said, "I still get followed all the time any time I go to a store. It’s sad.”
Trayon Christian, 19, from Queens, NY, was detained by two undercover NYPD detectives after leaving the retailer's Madison Avenue store on Thursday.
Christian purchased a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt using his debit card. He walked out of the store and was arrested a block away by the police. "They said my card wasn't real, it was fake," the teenager commented. "They said someone at Barneys called to report it."
He was also asked by the detectives "How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?" before being handcuffed and taken to a nearby police station.
Several groups are now calling for a boycott of the retail chain on social media. The rapper Jay Z was urged to cancel his upcoming collaborative collection with Barneys.
In response to the uproar, Barneys' CEO, Mark Lee, issued a statement on Facebook on Thursay, saying that the company has hired a civil rights expert to review its procedures and practices:
Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies.
Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service—without exception.
To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality. To lead this review, we have retained a civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission has been the nation’s watchdog for civil rights for more than 50 years. Mr. Yaki will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations.
In addition, Barneys New York has reached out to community leaders to begin a dialogue on this important issue.
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