Barneys New York's flagship store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan ordered police to arrest a black college student because...he bought a belt. (Image Source: Flickr: purpletwinkie)
"X While Black" is a very simple and depressing crime meme, X being anything that a black person does. Simple because you can apply anything to it, and depressing because it is true: In so many situations, a black person doing an otherwise normal thing is looked at with suspicion, questioned, even arrested because "black people don't do that." Consider today's example, Shopping While Black: A black college student was arrested by undercover cops at luxury store Barneys New York. The reason? Because the student bought an expensive belt there with his own money.
Trayon Christian, a freshman at the NYC College of Technology based in Corona, went to Barneys on Madison Avenue, a fashion capital, to buy a $350 belt with money that came from his savings back in April. Christian worked part time while studying at school, a job that meant saving up paychecks over a period of months, just to get the belt. The student has no arrest record, and is just getting by like anyone else.
However, when Trayon Christian left the store, undercover cops arrested him on the spot. After producing ID at the register, the clerk at Barneys New York called police, claiming that Christian was using a fraudulent ID to make the purchase. Christian was hauled off and asked how such a young black man "could afford to purchase such an expensive belt." Even after producing the ID and the credit card he used, police officers at the local precinct claimed Christian ID was a fraud, and that he could not have possibly been able to afford purchasing the belt, made by designer Salvatore Ferragamo. It would take police calling the bank to confirm that the ID was indeed real, and that Christian could indeed afford the purchase, to let him go.
Trayon Christian, in righteous response, returned the belt in disgust because Barneys New York allowed such mistreatment to happen. Furthermore, he is suing the NYPD and Barneys for the being arrested for shopping while black. That Christian had to deal through such a horrendous endeavor shows that the problem of racism is not simply a matter of being denied basic rights, but primarily being denied the basic dignity of not being treated with suspicion.