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Barneys CEO addresses ongoing racial profiling concerns

Barneys CEO denies racial profiling is store policy despite questions from attorney general.
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Ryan Porter, October 30, 2013 3:05:00 PM

The CEO of Barneys New York has offered his “deepest sympathies” to two black Americans who were racially profiled by police after dropping serious cash at the store. Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old engineering student, made news with his story of being taken into custody by undercover police officers after he purchased a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. Kayla Phillips was also questioned by police after she purchased a $2,500 Celine bag.

“No one, and I mean no individual, should go through the unacceptable experiences described by Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips,” Mark Lee, the company’s CEO, said in a press conference on Tuesday. “We offer our deepest sympathies to both of them.” He said Barneys has plans to work with civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton “to effect real change and bring other retailers into the fold.”

Lee apologized to Jay Z as well, whose A New York Holiday collection is getting a high-profile reveal at the department store on November 20. “We deeply regret that these recent events have distracted from the great work of the Sean Carter Foundation, and we offer our sincere apologies to Mister Carter,” Lee said.

A petition has collected over 24,000 signatures asking Jay Z to “end all partnerships with Barneys New York.” Jay Z released a statement on his Life + Times website over the weekend saying he will not make any decisions until he has all the evidence and stressing that 25% of the sales are going to help pay post-secondary school tuition for those in financial need. “I am not making a dime from this collection,” he wrote.

But is that the whole story? New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has requested meetings with executives of both Barneys and Macy’s, where HBO’s Treme actor Rob Brown reported experiencing racial profiling. “We’re now demanding information from Barneys and Macy’s to assess their policies and their conduct in this regard,” he told the Associated Press, adding, “apparently there was some sort of policy in the stores and in some part of the NYPD to profile certain types of customers.”

This directly contradicts what Lee said on Tuesday, when he said racial profiling is against Barneys’ policies and any employee found guilty of engaging in racial profiling would be fired. No wonder Jay Z is taking a minute here, as it sounds like we still have a few missing puzzle pieces in this story before we know who to point the finger at.


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