Yesterday’s Tools Cannot Fight Today’s Battles

As everyone is aware of from last week, Barneys has come under fire for racially profiling Black customers in its high end stores. Jay-Z has expressed his intention to not do anything to upset his business deal. Of course, outrage from the African-American community has ensued, and is beginning to play itself out in other ways.

Now that things have picked up steam, there are talks of boycotts and sit-ins. Now, here is the part where I am somewhat ambivalent. I understand that people are upset about Black people being racially profiled in stores. I totally get that part. But,  I don’t know if reflexively calling for a boycott of Barney’s is something that I can really see as important. To be quite frank, how is it possible to boycott something that you never supported in the first place?  I don’t know if a sit-in sends the right message. Many of the people engaging in the sit in would not be your regular patrons of the store, in all likelihood.

Is the message we want to send that we as a people (some Black people, not all) see it as worth fighting for the right to not be discriminated against as we spend money on over priced luxury items? It’s one thing for an individual to want to spend on what they want to spend their money on, but to organize collectively feels a little like “Shut Up (Don’t Profile Me, Yo) and Take My Money”

This is not the Woolworth counter sit-in of 1960. While the issue of racial profiling is an issue, pulling the time-worn tactics of boycotts and sit ins makes it more about Barney’s and/or Macy’s than it really needs to be. What about initiating a way to redirect that money to other things? While we should be outraged about the individual cases of racial profiling in these high end stores, I don’t know if it is the best use of our collective energy to target something that is tailored to a very specific segment of the population. With issues like Stop and Frisk being so hot, this proposed sit in feels like a side-mission at best, and a distraction at worse. Stop and Frisk effects a broad swath of people, and should continue to be a strong focal point. Even though these incidents are being called “shop and frisk” its important to know which measures need a break down, not a shake down.

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  1. I agree, this is a lesson for many folks in our community, Barney’s, Macy’s etc. have been doing this for years, I stop shopping at Macy’s long ago because every time I went in I was being followed. We need to stop spending our money in these stores (for those who shop in those stores) and spend your money in your community. Boycott is a waste of time and all this attentions is to take away from the fact that many of us are struggling and can’t afford Barney’s and or Macy’s we need to revamp our education policy’s, we need REAL employment, we need scholarships, internships and opportunities, we don’t need to waste time on the spirit of mass contusion .

  2. I agree; the thought of a boycott, while intentions are good, just seems archaic and way off the mark. I doubt we’re ever going to live in a world when no one gets profiled in stores. The two incidents in the news are probably their most overt tactics; what about what they do, and will do, that isn’t so obvious. More focus should be on helping the Black owned companies strive, instead of protesting to waste money in stores that have proven for decades they don’t want our money.

  3. I absolutely agree. While I do believe we should have the right to shop anywhere we wish, we also need to exercise some common sense and dignity, and stop spending money in places where we’re obviously not welcome, in order to please folks who never really cared about us in the first place. As for Jay-Z, he hasn’t taken any lessons from the past. I see a hard fall coming for him in the future.

  4. I agree completely. That’s exactly the point I was trying to get across on my radio show this past Sunday, and everyone thought I was crazy. I’m glad I have a brother in arms for this issue.

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