Sigh. At a time when it seems racial tensions in America couldn’t run much higher, we keep hearing of more and more instances of everyday racism. And sadly, even your local shopping mall can be the scene for some such awfulness.
Jovita Jones Cage was recently banned from her local Victoria’s Secret store for… well, absolutely nothing, it seems. Whilst visiting her local store in Collierville, Tennessee to have the security tag removed from a bra she had recently purchased (from the very same store) which had accidentally been left on, Jones suffered some horrendously offensive racial profiling. After original receipts were found and the tag removed, Jones left the bra with the cashier to browse some other merch before leaving.
And that’s when it happened. An actual police officer approached her, put her in handcuffs, and told her to put “both of my hands behind my back, because I was under arrest for shoplifting.” After searching her bag, and realizing no such shoplifting had occurred, he escorted out and informed her she was banned from returning to the store. Presumably, the employee who’d served her had called the police, and to Jones Cage, the reason seems obvious. “I think it was for the simple fact that I was black.” And quite understandably, the incident had her pretty shook, crying, and feeling “traumatized,” she said, speaking to WREG on her experience.
After contacting Victoria’s Secret’s corporate head office with a complaint, she was offered nothing but an apology and a $100 gift card. Scant amends for such a violating and degrading incident. She also contacted the NAACP (National Association for the Advanced of Colored People), to bring some attention to her case.
She quite rightly stated, “They’re going to have to do more,” adding that, “I want justice not only for me, but for people everywhere. I hope after this, other victims of racial profiling will come forward. It’s solidarity… It’s about everyone being treated fairly.”
The company released the following statement in response, expressing contrition, adding that the employee responsible had been fired: “We are sincerely sorry for the experience Ms. Jones Cage had in our store. Bottom line, we made a mistake, and we do not tolerate this behavior. Our head of stores has been trying to reach Ms. Jones Cage to personally apologize for her experience. Victoria’s Secret is adamant that all customers be treated with dignity and respect. We have investigated the matter, and the associate involved is no longer employed with our brand. In addition, we are meeting with every associate in the store to reinforce our values and policies. We are committed to delivering an excellent shopping experience to every customer, every time… we have work to do — and we are dedicated to this mission.” Strong words, sure, but only time will tell if this will be backed up by meaningful, committed action.
The incident brings to mind another recent case of racial profiling by a globally known brand. Back in April, two young black men waiting for a business meeting in a Philadelphia Starbucks, were arrested after staff called the police on them, for supposedly trespassing, after they didn’t immediately order drinks. The coffee giant soon announced plans for a nationwide staff training in anti-racial-bias. It’s better than throwing money at the problem, or worse, doing nothing, but sad that it’s necessary. Hopefully, in bringing attention to such shameful behaviour, we can become more aware of everyday racism, and bolder in defying it.