Barneys’ CEO Mark Lee is taking steps to address recent racial profiling allegations by agreeing to meet with Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN).
Earlier this week, a 19-year-old African-American man was falsely accused of buying a Ferragamo belt at the store with a fake debit card, and shortly afterwards another woman came forward with a similar story, claiming she bought a $2,500 Celine bag and then was questioned by police after leaving the store. A media shit storm ensued, and NAN subsequently reached out to Lee requesting a meeting and threatening to picket Barneys, according to WWD.
Lee posted the following statement on Barneys’ Facebook page, confirming the meeting with community leaders and also noting that they’ve asked a civil rights expert to come review the store’s operations:
Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies.
Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service—without exception.
To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality. To lead this review, we have retained a civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission has been the nation’s watchdog for civil rights for more than 50 years. Mr. Yaki will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations.
Yesterday, prior to Barneys issuing this statement, a Brooklyn man started a Change.org petition asking Jay-Z to pull out of his holiday collaboration with the store. The petition currently has about 1,650 supporters. Jay-Z hasn’t issued any sort of statement yet, but it seems unlikely that he would pull out, first of all because Barneys is taking steps to address the issue and second because the merch is probably already sitting in boxes waiting to be unpacked–not to mention he’s probably contractually obligated to go through with it.
While it’s unfortunate these incidents happened, Barneys appears dedicated to rectifying the situation. Let’s hope that it’s a productive meeting, and one that inspires other businesses to rethink how they do business.