I was shopping at a local retailer on Franklin Street with a friend of mine and noticed that he, a young black man, was being followed by the store personnel and was repeatedly asked what he was looking for. The clerk ignored me completely and seemed intent on ensuring that my friend wasn’t going to steal. We both noticed what was happening and were so annoyed that we left.
- Ask your friend, “What would you like to do about it?”
- Support your friend. “I’m angry about what happened. How are you? “How do you usually handle that experience?”
- As a potential ally, you can safely bring to light what is happening in the moment while also checking for your own bias. “You seem to be paying quite a bit of unsolicited attention to my friend. Can I ask why you seem uncomfortable with his presence here?”
- Label it with humor, “I know you’re watching him, but don’t worry. He’s just here to shop.”
- Ask to see the written store policies on security. Does it suggest racial profiling?
- Inquire and document for later. Write down the clerk’s name, and get the manager/owner’s contact information. Write down every detail you can remember immediately after the incident to share with company officials or the Chamber of Commerce.
- Use campus and social media outlets to share the experience and find out if others have had similar problems. You and your UNC peers hold a lot of buying power and can influence local policy and practices.
- Vote with your dollars – for example, cancel your store credit card or return purchased items on the spot and say clearly why you are doing so.