Racial profiling — it’s so in this season!
On April 29th, Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old from Queens, New York, got paid from his work-study job at New York City College of Technology, so he decided to go shopping. The teen made his way to Barney’s New York, an upscale department store on tony Madison Avenue, to buy a belt he’d seen on a favorite rapper. The Ferragamo belt cost $349, which he paid for with his debit card and showed his ID, as per usual when you pay with debit. Happy with his new belt, Christian left the store with his purchase … only to be stopped by two New York Police Department officers, accusing him of using a fake card.
As reported by the New York Daily News, after Christian exited the store, someone at Barney’s freaked out and told the detectives to stop him. Cops accused the teen of using a fraudulent card and insisted he show his ID; he produced his driver’s license and his school ID. Then they asked him how could afford to purchase a $300+ belt (because, you know, he’s Black). Then they actually handcuffed him and took him to a police station. Cops held the teenager for an hour.
Trayon Christian’s debit card actually works. He actually had money in his account from an actual job. And when police figured they out, they released him with an apology.
But an apology is not enough from either the police or Barney’s. This is straight-up racial profiling. The store saw a young Black man and assumed he must be a criminal for no other reason than the color of his skin. Do you think 14-year-old white girls from the Upper East Side get asked whether they can afford a $349 belt when they go shopping at Barney’s? Of course not! Sales clerks assume white teens have Mommy and Daddy’s money or that the kids have trust funds. They aren’t suspects; they’re just customers. This is the kind of profiling that white people are, by and large, privileged enough to never experience. It’s bullshit, and it’s big bullshit in supposedly liberal NYC, where police can stop and frisk anyone at any time — but disproportionately young Black and Latino men.
Christian returned the belt and got his money back. He vows never to shop at Barney’s again and intends to sue the store. I don’t blame him.