Earlier this week, reports surfaced that a young African-American man Trayon Christian, 19, was allegedly arrested and questioned by NYPD officers after purchasing a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. According to Christian, a Barneys associate called his bank to verify funds and checked his ID. But he was held at a local precinct until officers again verified his information.
Shortly after, another young Black shopper Kayla Phillips, 21, claimed she too was harassed and racially profiled after purchasing a $2,500 Celine handbag. Phillips had long left the store when officers stopped her in the subway and questioned her about the purchase.
Jay Z is scheduled to participate in a holiday campaign with Barneys, but if the media and concerned citizens have their way, it won’t happen. A white male writer for NY Daily News issued a public plea for Black celebrities to speak out:
“What we need now is for a black celebrity or two to speak up.
“Especially Jay Z, who is ready to begin a ‘passionate relationship’ with Barneys, a partnership in a clothing and jewelry line called ‘A New York Holiday,’ according to a breathless press release. It’s wonderful that 25 percent of the revenue will go to his Shawn Carter Foundation charity for a minority scholarship fund. But if his Black scholarship students shop in Barneys, they might also get collared by the cops. Maybe Jay Z should do an old-school Marcy Houses sitdown with the CEO and demand some straight answers about how his passionate partners treat Black shoppers.”
A petition on change.org is calling for a little more action, as they urge Jay Z to end all partnerships with Barneys. It reads in part:
“We can no longer tolerate blatant prejudice and discrimination. It is clear that the minority buying power is devalued by some. We must withdraw support to those who will not support us.
“I’ve been a lifelong Jay Z fan. Jay Z is currently in partnership with Barneys New York for the release of his holiday collection — called ‘A New York Holiday’ (or BNY SCC). Barneys lacks any connection with the Black and hip-hop community. And without his vast wealth and brand power, they would see him the same as they see Trayon Christian. Jay Z should be appalled by Barneys actions and withdraw all support from them. If he does this, he will send a clear message to all corporations that are likeminded, that this behavior cannot be tolerated any longer.”
Both Christian and Phillips have filed separate lawsuits against Barneys New York and the NYPD.