Shopping for EQUALITY

Tired of racism in retail, black shoppers are starting to speak up, and the industry is being forced to listen

forms of I.D. in order for you to accept this check?” If the clerk can’t produce a copy of the written policy, ask to see a manager.

Carefully conduct your own investigation. Glenn McNatt, a Baltimore resident, claims that last December he was denied entry into a local jewelry store as he stood in the rain for five minutes. Although McNatt had an appointment to pick up a watchband, he was repeatedly waved away. The guard finally heard him out, and after the appointment was confirmed, McNatt was allowed to conduct business. “I had that uneasy feeling, but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” says the 49-year-old columnist for the Baltimore Sun.

As he walked down North Charles Street and pondered the incident, he shared his suspicions with a man, who was white, and asked him to attempt to enter the store. The man was the Rev. Philip Snouffer, a Catholic priest dressed in plain clothes. “I hoped the guards would shake their heads no,” says Father Snouffer. “But the buzzer went off and I walked right in. When they asked if I needed help, I said, ‘You already have helped me by letting me in. There’s nothing else you can do for me today.'”

McNatt contacted the ACLU of Maryland and will take legal action because he wasn’t satisfied with the store’s response. “At some point, you have to stand up and make a federal case out of it. That’s the way to stop them-not only by court action but by public opinion,” he says.

Know that a lawsuit is not your only option. “The corporation will pay attention to any publicity that your situation may get,” says Hayes. “Even if you go to trial and a judgment is ordered, nine times out of 10 it will be paid by the insurance company and not affect the company’s bottom line,” he explains. Withhold your business and investments from the store, he emphasizes.

“Don’t let your frustrations turn into apathy or anger so that you stop the process,” advises Finnell. “Not everyone you talk to is going to agree to the extent to which you’ve been offended or injured,” she says. “After all, it’s just a 30-60 second encounter in their minds. But for you, the damage cuts deep.”

Whatever the incident, take the time to make an objection. If you’ve been physically harmed, call the police and your lawyer immediately after you’ve filed a report. Don’t be tempted to walk out of the store in silence.

Where We Shop
African Americans are significantly more likely than white Americans to shop at department and specialty stores

Source: Yankelovich Partners, Africans American Monitor, Norwalk, Connecticut, 1995

Percent of African Americans and white Americans 16 and older who shop at least once per month at four leading retail outlets

Shopping For The Fun Of It
When it comes to leisure activities, shopping ranks fourth in popularity among African Americans

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