Comedian and writer Milly Tamarez from New York has shared a heartbreaking story about her experience of being racially profiled while out shopping in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Tamarez spent last weekend in the small town with friends and suggested they visit a store called One Mercentile to check out the shop’s scented candles section.
At the store, Tamarez picked up a candle she liked but couldn’t decide if she wanted it.
After deciding against buying it, she says she put the candle down and continued looking around the shop.
That was when she started to feel like two employees were watching her.
And when she decided to leave the store, she says she was confronted by a male store clerk.
Tamarez said the experience was humiliating and made her question whether she had done something wrong.
And she said the incident made her feel ashamed of her skin colour.
Outside of the store I was so angry and embarrassed I couldn’t stop crying. My friends were visibly upset and shaken too, and I began to feel every more ashamed because my Asian friends had to experience the pain of having black skin.
And for the first time in many years (since I was in college in Southern California) I was ashamed of my black skin. TALK ABOUT TAKING HOME A UNIQUE GIFT.
Then she said a woman came outside to defend herself, while other people looked on and chose not to intervene.
Tamarez said she believed that the woman wasn’t there to check if she was okay, but was instead trying to make herself feel better about the incident.
In response to Tamarez’ thread, One Mercantile offered an apology by saying:
It has been eye opening to see how easily our approach to store monitoring can be seriously damaging and harmful and we are using this time to reconsider our approach.
We are truly sorry, though we recognise that an apology can only go so far.
They also posted their own thread commenting on the incident, in which they said they would take “full responsibility for what happened”
That apology has not stopped a backlash against the store, which sells home goods and gifts. On review websites, such as Yelp and Google, the shop has been hit with a wave of negative reviews.
Many of those reviews accuse One Mercantile of racial profiling or reference Milly Tamarez’ story explicitly. It is not clear who exactly was involved in the incident and who spoke to Tamarez at the store.
When indy100 contacted Tamarez for comment, she said the woman she spoke to was the owner of the store, and insisted she had not asked anyone publicly or privately to leave any reviews on her behalf.
I didn't create the post with the intentions of "I WANT TO SHUT DOWN THEIR STORE" but I am also aware that in a free market economy people "vote" with their dollars.
After leaving the store me and my two friends, during the 3 hour car ride back to NYC, looked them up on Yelp and Facebook and all the reviews I saw were 5 out of 5 stars RAVING about how "exceptional" their customer service is, which made me really sad.
They are capable of having great customer service but they just took one look at me and my Asian friends and decided we were not worthy which is the textbook definition of racial profiling.
I wrote that post to let people know what happened and let people know that if they shopped at One Mercantile that is the kind of behaviour they are endorsing.
At the end of the day, everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes and I do not wish anything bad on the owners and I do not want them to lose their livelihood on my behalf.
However, she said that the owners had reached out to her privately to apologise but she chose not to respond because she felt that their messages did not considered the racial aspect on the incident.
It's not that hard to apologise correctly. 'I am sorry we profiled [you], we thought we were above that kind of vile behaviour but it is clear we have unconscious bias we have to work hard at unlearning.'
I am also not responsible for making them feel better about treating me like s*** in their store, I have many jobs and that is not one of them!
indy100 has contacted One Mercantile for comment.