Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Retail Racism?

'I Thought Those Decades Were Gone'

An 18-year-old Hispanic woman goes to a Florida craft store to spend her birthday money. A manager follows her and asks repeatedly what she is looking for. Other customers, all white, are browsing without being asked such questions. When she protests, she is asked to leave. "I thought those decades were gone, when they could throw you out of a store just because you're Hispanic."

A white woman in Indiana notices store clerks shadowing two African American shoppers, taking items out of the shoppers' hands and replacing them on the racks, then standing by the dressing room door when one of the women tries on a garment.

A Latina woman is shopping in a major department store in Iowa. A young sales clerk follows her closely but doesn't speak to her. When she moves, he moves; when she stands still, he stands still. The woman considers confronting him but notices him returning to speak to his manager, an older man.

Find the source. The clerk may simply be following store policy. Ask why the clerk or security officer is following you (or someone else). Ask to see the written policies on discrimination. Share your experience and observations with company officials.

Stage a personal public protest. Go to the customer service desk or check-out counter. Cancel your store credit card on the spot, and say why you're doing so — loud enough for others to hear. Ask for the manager and tell that person the store has lost your business.

Tell others. Let friends and family know what you observed or experienced. Encourage them to refrain from shopping at a store that practices racial profiling or to contact the store to ask about such policies and practices.