An Iowa man claims he was racially profiled by at least two Old Navy employees who accused him of attempting to steal his own jacket.
James Conley III posted a series of videos on his Facebook page documenting his interaction with a store manager who, according to Conley, told him that he would have to pay for the jacket he was wearing in addition to a pair of hoodies he originally intended to purchase.
In the Facebook post, which has been shared more than 121,000 times, Conley wrote:
Today I was racially profiled by the Old Navy store in West Des Moines, Iowa in Jordan creek. I was accused that I didn’t pay for my blue bubble jacket that I got for Christmas that I wore into the store. As I was checking out to purchase some hoodies, I was asked if I wanted to also purchase the jacket that I was wearing. First, I started laughing because I didnt believe what I was hearing. The store manager Beau Carter was very unprofessional and stereotyped me because I was a Black male. He says “anytime someone wears Old Navy clothing they have to always scan that customers clothing to insure that it was previously purchased”. (Where do they do that at?) Every time I go to this store I have on my same exact winter blue jacket and have never been asked to scan my clothing and the previous “non-black” customers had on identical apparel as me from old navy but was never asked to scan their clothing. Then after they scan my jacket they try to make me repay for it?? Finally the District Manager Shannon (who refused to give out her last name) came out and I made her check the surveillance tape to prove that her and her fellow employees were in the wrong for racially profiling me because of the color of my skin. Once she confirmed that I was telling the truth (after watching the tape) she never came back out to apologize to me nor did the store manager Beau Carter as you can see in my videos below.
Gap Inc. officials released a statement Wednesday, saying in part, “At Old Navy, and across Gap Inc., we maintain a ‘zero means zero’ policy and we are actively investigating the situation.”
“We are a company made up of diverse people – from all backgrounds and cultures,” the statement continued. “We encourage diversity in thought, celebrate diversity in each other and demand tolerance and inclusion, always.”
Thomas Newkirk, a Des Moines civil rights attorney, said the video is a perfect example of what store management shouldn’t do, but that Conley acted reasonably.
“(Conley) has what’s called a denial of service case,” Newkirk said. “He could file a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Act.”
He likened the case to the blatant racism that black Americans experienced in the Jim Crow era.
“You’re denying service in the same way as if they put up a sign that said ‘Whites only,’ Newkirk said. “In this day and age, you can document it on video on a camera. He did that. He did it respectfully. He kept his temper. He did everything he should do.”
Newkirk noted that the racial profiling behavior seen in Conley’s video could be indicative of a systemic problem at other Old Navy stores and that the company needs to evaluate its practices and retrain its employees.
“It absolutely was a failure on all levels,” he said.
KCCI adds: “The store posted a sign saying it was temporarily closed Wednesday. Conley has since hired an attorney for the case.”