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.