Shopping While Black: Macy's settles over alleged racial profiling

A settlement between Macy's and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over alleged racial profiling of black and Latino customers was announced today. Under the settlement, Macy's has agreed to pay $600,000 in damages and change its security practices for the alleged racial profiling. The agreement, in the case filed Friday by Spitzer Friday in Manhattan's U.S. District Court, between Macy's East Inc. and Spitzer covers the company's 29 stores in New York State. Spitzer said at a news conference that the agreement would permit "individuals, regardless of skin color, to walk into a store and not feel like they are going to be followed, not feel they are going to be viewed suspiciously and not dealt with as second-class citizens." "What we found was deeply disturbing," said Spitzer. "What we found was those who were shopping at Macy's, those who were black or Latino, were dealt with differently." He stressed that Macy's had cooperated with the investigation. "The agreement we have reached today is focused on assuring that compliance with specific policies and practices is monitored regularly," the statement said. The case parallels complaints made nationwide for many years by minority customers at stores large and small who charge that they are often followed, questioned and searched based solely on their race or ethnicity, an offense wryly referred to as "shopping while black."

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  • Spitzer in an investigation found that more than 75 percent of the customers detained at Macy's 29 department stores in New York state are black and Latino, significantly higher than the percentage of blacks and Latinos who shop there.
  • Spitzer's office also found that Macy's staff were unlawfully handcuffing customers. Spitzer said his office investigated five stores, chosen at random after numerous complaints: one in Manhattan, two in Westchester County, one on Long Island and the one in Colonie. At one upstate store, blacks and Latinos were at least five times more likely to be handcuffed than whites by security guards, according to the attorney general's investigation