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Shopping While Black - Retail Racism

Updated on March 10, 2012

A recent experiment aired on YouTube by ABC, showed just how bad it can get when a shopper is being discriminated against because of the color of their skin. ABC decided to preform this experiment, not just for fun, but because researchers have already found that 60% of Black American's and African American's, are being discriminated against when they go shopping in mid to upper-scale retail boutiques and stores.

Researchers have dubbed this problem: Shopping While Black

Shopping while black is so prevalent that 60% of black, african and latino shoppers say they have experienced it.
Shopping while black is so prevalent that 60% of black, african and latino shoppers say they have experienced it.

Social Experiments...

A recent trend on YouTube has been to preform social experiments (like the famed Pantless Subway Ride), has got professionals and amatures alike, posting videos showing the public in their rawest form. In this specific experiment, the woman (Denise Simon) being discriminated against, the store clerk doing the persecuting and the store security guard pushing it further - are all actors. What is real, are the shoppers, and what is amazing, is the lack of help any of them give to the woman being treated unfairly. The experiment was put in place to test out other shoppers, to see who would be willing to step in and help, or at least try to help. The test showed that people of color were much more likely to help, and that the majority of caucasians were more likely to try and avoid getting involved.

In several studies that led up to this social experiment, it has been shown that (at least in New York) racial profiling in retail settings, is much more prevalent than we'd like to believe. In fact, over 60% of black and latino shoppers say that this sort of discrimination has happened to them. And you can see the proof in the pudding when you learn that Macy's has been sued more then enough times for racial profiling, and even had to pay $600,000 in several judgments against them.

It's not just Retail

Although racism is a problem that has plagued humankind for ages, the fact that it not only continues but is so prevalent in our society, is down right hideous. Retail stores aren't the only place that people of color are having a hard time either. It appears that people of color also get lesser service, harassment and down right abused in restaurants, banks, health clinics and upper class establishments.

What do we do?

In situations like these, there is one large problem that most people don't stop to think about - How do we change these racial profiling behaviors?

Would it eventually stop having if other customers stood up for their fellow human's in these situations? Should secret shoppers go around testing various stores for this type of discrimination? Should there be a penalty for the stores, or for the employees who exhibit the behaviors?

Would you stand up for someone being discriminated against in a store? (Even if you didn't know them)

See results

What ideas do you have about stopping Racial Profiling in these settings? And have you ever experienced this happening?

Submit a Comment
  • ProtectConsumers profile image


    7 years ago

    Each day, in exercise of $1.2 trillion in purchasing power, millions of African-Americans patronize retail stores resulting in the purchase of goods and services that contribute to the function of our daily traverses in America life. While we enjoy the freedom of choice to now, shop at any establishment of our preference, negative perceptions toward African-Americans have not truly subsided. In eagerness, we rush to demonstrate our economic vitality, showing true, that our skin may be black, but our money is as green as the hues of others. Despite this pseudo-equality, our presence in retail establishments, is often met with heightened suspicion wrought with stereotypical impulses of presumptive criminal activity, or plainly stated, theft. Long the scapegoat, African Americans have carried the burden for fabricators who would accuse us of rapes, murders, and thefts, with many of the deceits ending in lynchings. Yet with the election of the first black president, many rush to proclaim a post racial utopia has arrived.

    If utopian parity now exists, how then do we explain the heightened levels of racism striking all over America? Racism extending from the black couple who couldn’t get married in their own Mississippi church, to the man who was welcomed into his Motel 6 room with “Hello Nigger!” on the TV screen. We have witnessed the murder of young Trayvon Martin, followed by Chavis Carter who was handcuffed in the back of a police car and mysteriously killed. We move forward to the Tyler Perry “driving while black” incident and highlight the racist arrest of Harvard professor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates. To no end, the list is ever expansive and also includes the example of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who conducted racially motivated mass sweeps for illegal immigrants. And lastly, I would be remiss to not include the 250,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were accused of changing the crime landscape of Houston, Texas soon after arriving en masse to the Astrodome. While of course, some would suggest these atrocities are isolated events; the idea that these actions persist in 2012, demonstrates the strength of racism’s residue on the American landscape.

    If as Americans we have to exist with such adversity designated based on race, then I am called to action and inspired to difference, just as a former U.S. President once stated, “If one person can make a difference, then everyone should try.” This statement reigns as a testament for what is possible, when we make a decision to take a stand to improve and evolve the human condition. As such, today I would like to make a difference by sharing and exposing an important story for the benefit of protecting the lives of millions of African-American shoppers.

    The story highlights specific examples of an unknown scheme Macy’s Department Stores practice to profile/target African-American shoppers—often resulting in unjust criminal convictions-simply used to prevent the falsely accused from filing lawsuits. Until, today I was embarrassed to discuss the effects of racial profiling, however doing so paralyzes the purpose and opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Often, it’s not until it happens to you, that it becomes the single most important issue affecting your life. But why wait? By all means, please feel free to share this story/information with your constituents so that they can be alert and aware regarding which establishments they decide to patronize. Lastly, should you need additional information; I also, have Macy’s video surveillance footage exhibiting racial profiling, and sexual voyeurism, “down-blousing” of female customers via the security cameras. Also, I am encouraging as many citizens as possible to contact Macy's corporate office at:

    Terry Lundren, 1-800-264-0069, or 513-398-5221.

    Thanks in advance,

  • Paradise7 profile image


    7 years ago from Upstate New York

    Her TYPE????!!! She seemed like a very well-dressed and well-spoken woman to me. I couldn't believe that the other shoppers didn't recognized this COULD NOT BE REAL! But it seems not only the stores have this prejudice, but shoppers, too.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    7 years ago from USA

    This was very sad to watch that people weren't willing to step up to stop such blatant racism. In real life, generally people are a little more discreet, and the racism isn't as obvious, but it definitely does exist.

  • keetee2012 profile image


    7 years ago from somewhere out there

    In the movie, Fearless, Jet Li said, "Tea is tea. But each tea has it's own character and properties. What is the purpose of grading? Teas are all grown in nature. What you say may be right but the way I see it, the tea does not judge itself. People judge the tea."

    Tea is categorized by the method that is used in processing the leaves. Varieties of tea are black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea and scented and spiced teas. However, categorizing the teas doesn't change the fact that they're still teas.

    We may be different from each other in terms of color, race, religion, etc, but we are all humans. And we are all born naked.

  • junko profile image


    7 years ago

    It is sad some people who were stole and sold into slavery and some who lands were stolen and sold by our founding fathers, today always is suspected of thief. With the bill of rights,the constitution,and laws that were made since the thief of land and people,the theif of material things is punish by law with fines and imprisonment. Theif punishment is harsher than the punishment for fraud,even though the fraud involved millions and the thief involved hundreds. Who makes the laws fraudsters or thieves?

  • gmwilliams profile image

    Grace Marguerite Williams 

    7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

    Yes, this is a sad and deplorable fact of life when you are a person of color. Many upscale stores wrongfully assume that just because a person is of color, he/she is somewhat not socioeconomically affluent. If you are a person of color, the store clerk usually asks you if you need help. This is not salaciousness on the store clerk's part, this is done as a pretext for him/her to follow you around in the store to ascertain that you do not do anything deleterious if I should say so.

    Oftentimes in stores, especially upscale stores, if a person of color is leaving the store, security usually inspect him/her to ascertain that he/she has not stolen anything. How sad indeed to assume that people of color are thieves and could not afford to shop at a store. Now we know the meaning of the word assume and how wrong it is to do so.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    This is quite depressing. Racism is so stupid!

  • kateperez profile image


    7 years ago from pasadena, tx

    The behavior of those establishments is deplorable and should not be tolerated.

    Unfortunately, it seems that profiling based on the color of skin goes on. Today I watched a television show about a man who was an upstanding citizen, he was a trader on Wall Street, he had a lovely wife and 2 sons, he was a little league coach. He lived in a beautiful house in the suburbs.. He was also a bank robber... He was white...

    You cannot just decide someone is bad because their clothes are holey, or their skin is dark. That's just pathetic!


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