Moral Low Ground


‘Shopping While Black’: NYC Teen Trayon Christian Arrested for Buying $350 Ferragamo Belt at Barneys

Trayon Christian (Facebook)

Trayon Christian (Facebook)

A black college student from New York City has filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department and an upscale Manhattan department store after he was arrested under the alleged assumption that he was ‘too black’ to afford the $350 belt he bought.

The New York Post reports 19-year-old Trayon Christian of Queens, a freshman at NYC College of Technology, alleges he was arrested for ‘shopping while black.’ After saving money from part-time jobs at school and purchasing a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt at Barneys New York on Madison Avenue, Christian was approached by plainclothes detectives, arrested, and taken to a local police station. A Barneys clerk had alerted police, claiming Christian’s purchase was fraudulent.

The undercover officers who arrested the teen allegedly asked him “how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt,” according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Once at the police station, Christian, who has no criminal record, produced his identification, his debit card and a receipt for his purchase from Barneys.

“In spite of producing such documentation, Christian was told that his identification was false, and he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase,” the suit alleges.

“His only crime was being a young black man,” said Michael Palillo, Christian’s attorney.

After verifying that the debit card indeed belonged to Christian, he was released.

Christian told the Post that he returned the belt to Barneys out of disgust, and that he’ll never shop there again.

The marketplace discrimination known as ‘shopping while black,’ also called ‘consumer racial profiling,’ is pervasive in many parts of the United States. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, nearly half of black Americans claimed they were not treated equally by retailers, and fully 30 percent said they’d experienced discrimination while shopping in the past month. Despite the pain, stress and shock felt by many blacks when they are targeted by such discrimination, many never report it because, as Florida A&M University anthropology professor Nzinga Metzger says, they have “normalized the treatment and accepted it as a fact of life.”

No black Americans are immune to consumer racial profiling. R&B superstar R. Kelly, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey count themselves among the many high-profile blacks who claim they’ve been targeted for ‘shopping while black.’

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