Racism continues to be a problem for many retailers across the country. Employees of a Nordstrom Rack store in Brentwood, Missouri, wrongly accused three black teenagers of stealing last week, stalking the teens as they were shopping for prom apparel.
Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor, and Eric Rogers II were in the store on Thursday. They said that, for no reason at all, employees of the store near St. Louis started giving them strange looks and following them around. It made the three nervous, so they attempted to avoid the glares by going elsewhere in the store.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Lee said. “Every time we move, they move. When we looked up, they looked up.”
While in the store, another customer also harassed the teens, calling them “punks” for being present there.
“Are your parents proud of you for what you do?” the customer added, resulting in a verbal confrontation between the three teens and the adult.
Management stepped in, and before they left, the three said they purchased an item to make a point.
“We made the purchase to show them that we're equal and we didn't have to steal anything,” Rogers explained.
Fortunately for the trio, they kept the receipt for their purchase. As they exited the shopping center, police approached the teens, telling them someone from the store had called and said they had stolen items.
The teens explained their predicament, and police let them go.
“The police were actually good. They understood where we were coming from, and they showed us that they were just doing their job,” Rogers said.
As a result of their story making headlines, representatives from Nordstrom Rack — including President Geevy Thomas — have issued an official apology, and have flown out to the area to personally say they’re sorry to the teens. The president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP said he hopes to speak with Thomas to discuss what remedies will be made regarding the situation with the employees.
“The discussion has to have some sustenance, it needs to be strategic, and it needs to have some measurable outcomes,” NAACP chapter President Adolphus Pruitt said.
The racist actions of employees of some big-name companies continues to make headlines across the country. These incidents have resulted in the harassment of people of color, as well as mistreatment by police, after workers at these locations unnecessarily call them in.
In this situation, the police acted in a thoughtful and reasonable manner, and that should be recognized. The employees, however, must be held accountable for their actions, and hopefully Nordstrom Rack will take the right steps moving forward.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Chip East/Reuters