UNITED STATES—I felt the need to talk about this column because of the recent incident involving musician Sza at a visit to the Sephora store in Calabasas, California. This column is a difficult one to say the least, but it’s a conversation that we must have. It seems still in the year 2019, race is still a major issue in our country. Sza went to social media to discuss being racially profiled while inside the Sephora establishment, where she had security called on her.

This really sickens me to my stomach that we still live in an era where individuals who aren’t White tend to be profiled when they enter retail establishments. To remedy the situation Sephora is closing its stores on Wednesday, June 5 to conduct sensitivity training with its employees. This feels similar to what Starbucks did a several months ago, when two African-Americans inside the establishment had authorities called on them. However is sensitivity training enough? Why in the year 2019, are we still seeing such issues plague our country?

This column might be difficult for those who are not White to understand what it means to be profiled while shopping. As an African-American, I have been profiled more times than I can count visiting retailers. The sad reality of the situation is those same individuals profiling me have no idea I have enough money in my bank account to pay their salary for several months. I have no reason to steal, nor do I want to. There is a misconceived perception that theft only occurs in the inner city minorities are a major players in that, but that claim is just not true. Theft happens everywhere America, even in the suburbs, trust me I used to work in retail I’ve seen it all.

So why does profiling continue to happen to minorities? It is the direct result of a lack of education. There are so many people who have this misconceived notion that what they see on TV, movies and on the news applies to all minorities and simply cannot be farther from the truth. You cannot judge a book by its cover, and I was profiled at an establishment several months ago, that upon entering the store a woman got on her radio to report two African-Americans entering the store. I browsed leisurely before making my purchase. After making my purchase I was alerted by the person who was with me that we were being profiled; they actually heard the woman report us on the radio unbeknownst to her.

I was appalled, actually I was pissed. So what did I do? I turned right back around and returned the item I purchased. On top of that, I explained why I was returning the item and sent a detailed letter to the company alerting them of the issue. Was a follow-up or anything done with me by the company? Of course, but I did nto expect them to take any serious action. However, it doesn’t matter to me, they’ll never see another dime of my money as long as I live.

I’m a firm believer that if a company doesn’t respect me, I don’t care how great of a company you think you are, if you don’t trust me as a customer, you don’t deserve my money. I recently heard a tale about one of our local news anchors being racially profiled at a high-end jewelry store because of her skin color. Even more alarming was the clerk at the establishment asked a racist question: are you married or dating an athlete? Like really, I thought it was just me, but I have heard that multiple times from people I know.

There is this misconception that people of color only have money if they are married or related to someone in the sports arena. Let me be clear you have wealthy people, and they’re not all related to athletes, musicians or movie stars. It is so worrisome that people ‘believe’ that is the only way a person of color can accumulate wealth. The problem here is this issue goes deeper than just retailers profiling minorities, it stretches far beyond. We just have this psychology that we know based on what we don’t know.

Hey America, we don’t live in a bubble, this is why diversity in schools and the workplace is so important. It exposes people to cultures that perhaps they’ve never had encounters with before in the past. As for retailers, you better get your act in place, because if you alienate the people who spend the most money when it comes to goods and services, you’ll have difficulty staying in business. How about we become a country that stops seeing ‘color’ and what we ‘think’ we know and focus on what matters most, getting to know people not based on how they look, but WHO they are.

Written By Zoe Mitchell