Six Black teens escorted out of an upscale Chicago mall last month will receive an apology, thanks to the efforts of a female shopper who blasted the mall’s management for racially profiling the boys.
Dr. Carla Hightower was visiting the Water Tower Place shopping mall on March 3 when she spotted a group of stylishly dressed Black teens as she made her way down the escalator.
“They stood out because they looked so good,” Hightower told the Chicago Sun Times. “… There were a large number of them, and they were so stylish, calm and mature.”
Once she reached the bottom of the escalator, however, the Chicago physician noticed the teens being escorted out by a “very apologetic looking” female security guard. When asked what the boys had done wrong, the female guard said she was unsure.
The situation didn’t sit right with Hightower, who said she recognized the incident as a case of racial profiling right off the bat.
She quickly sought a manager to explain why the boys were booted from the mall and was stunned when he told her they’d been asked to leave because they were “loitering” and not “engaged in the shopping experience,” according to the newspaper.
“I’d never heard of such a rule,” Hightower said. “These boys were surrounded by persons not making purchases — but here [the manager] was telling them they had to ‘leave now’ and ‘don’t come back.’ ”
Hightower pressed the manager further, after which he changed his story and accused the teens of “chasing girls.” The exchange left the doctor perturbed, spurring her to shoot an email to General Growth Properties, the S&P 500 company that owns the mall, and complain that “… Water Tower Place management unfairly discriminates against Black teenage boys based on their race.”
According to the Chicago Sun, Kevin Berry, executive VP of human resources and communications for General Growth Properties, later agreed to meet with Hightower to address her concerns. The mall’s head of security and asset management were also present.
Berry told Hightower he’d hoped the incident had nothing to do with race, but acknowledged he wasn’t there to know exactly what had happened.
“The fact that they were expelled from the property and told to get out and never come back was not only unprofessional but is completely wrong,” he said. “…Not only that, but the way we did it and then the way we interacted with Dr. Hightower was not right.”
Thanks to Hightower’s efforts, the mall has agreed to review its policies on what it considers loitering, the newspaper reported. The mall’s security team will also undergo additional training.
“The loss here is that there is not only Carla, but there were six kids that for the rest of their lives are going to have a negative feeling of Water Tower Place,” Berry said. “I would say to each of them that we are … very sorry about what happened to you. It was wrong.”