I Was Racially Profiled in NYC

Welp. How do I begin? Let’s all take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, and settle in for this story. I walked into Beacon’s Closet, a super white hipster store, on W. 13th Street around 11 AM with a huge garbage bag full of clothes, intending to sell them. I walked straight back to the selling section of the store and was told they’d call my name when my clothes were ready.

I walked around the store for a while and ended up waiting an hour before finding out that they had already looked through my clothes, wanted nothing, and didn’t have the decency to call my name and let me know that.

The real tea here is this: if you’re a woman of color with a purse, watch out. I had with me a really loose tote bag that was about half the size of a regular tote bag. It’s such a thin and loose material that if I stuffed anything in there, you could definitely see the outline.

While perusing the socks, and waiting for my clothes to be done, a sales associate behind the jewelry counter looked at me up and down and said, with no smile or kindness, “Can I have your bag?” I looked into her eyes and saw exactly what she was thinking, “This brown girl is going to steal.” She looked very nervous. If there’s a no “large” bag policy, she should be used to asking this question and shouldn’t look so scared. I asked her, “Oh, do I have to?” She said, “I’d prefer it.” So I gave it to her and walked around the store.

While walking around, I noticed that every other woman carried a tote bag, many of them leather (making it harder to see what’s inside). Their bags were much larger than mine. I also noticed that every woman shopping was white, except for me. Huh.

I went back to this sales associate and said, “Every other woman here has her bag, so can I have mine back?”

She replied, “Sure, I just like to take bigger bags.” I took a peek behind her and saw that the only other bags taken were large backpacks, which is pretty NYC standard.

I later left and called the store, speaking with the manager who was kind and understanding. She said that the bag policy is definitely not something they force and she’s going to speak with that associate about her approach to me.

All of the other women in that store were white and they kept their large bags. My medium-sized bag was taken away and I was the only person of color.

While in the store I felt so conflicted: do I stand up for myself and make a scene, possibly getting thrown out by security and playing into the “crazy Latina” trope? Or do I just go home and write a strongly-worded blog post? I chose the latter.

Women of color, watch out.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

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