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Indybay Feature
Oakland Whole Foods Racially Profiles African American Minor While Shopping
by Bay Area Youth Activism
Wednesday Jan 17th, 2018 8:09 PM
A local African American minor (age 13) was racially profiled while shopping, verbally accused of stealing, and physically pushed out of the Oakland Whole Foods store on December 21, 2017 while attempting to shop for Christmas gifts for his family.
Black Lives Matter.
A local African American minor (age 13) was racially profiled while shopping, verbally accused of stealing, and physically pushed out of the Oakland Whole Foods store on December 21, 2017 while attempting to shop for Christmas gifts for his family.
Black Lives Matter.
The young man has lived in the community for over a decade.
Black Lives Matter.
His family shops at the Oakland Whole Foods every week and spends over $1,000 a month at that particular store.
They like convenience, they like to buy organic and they like to contribute to the community.
The Oakland store provides all of that.
The only other time he was in that store without his mom, was over a year ago on Mother’s Day when he and his brother were buying flowers and chocolates for her Mother’s Day gift.
That day he was detained by security guards at the exit and prevented from leaving the store until he could produce a receipt. However, when the checker asked him if he wanted a receipt, he said “no thank you” (as his mother always did) and proceeded to the exit. The security guard stopped him at the exit and made him go back and wait in line to get a receipt printed before he was allowed to leave the store. No one else in the store was asked to produce a receipt.
His mother, perturbed by this on Mother’s Day, went back to the store to speak with the floor manager and the security guards who explained to her that ‘lots of kids from the local public school come into the store and steal after school’. His mother explained to them that it was 8:30am on a Sunday and that her kids regularly shop in the store with her. She asked that they please become familiar with her children, and not profile them while they are shopping. If they are going to demand receipts from her children, then they should demand receipts from everyone who exits the store. Otherwise, it’s discrimination.
The boys were embarrassed by this experience and opted not to shop there for a very long time out of fear of harassment.
Black Lives Matter.
On December 21, the young man was skateboarding home from the local skatepark, as he does almost everyday.
Earlier that day, he asked his mother what she wanted for Christmas, and she told him that she wanted a scarf and organic body products.
(On Dec. 20, the day before the incident, he got his first Debit Card and his mother taught him how to use it. He was feeling proud and independent about that.)
He stopped in the Oakland Whole Foods store on his way home to look for gifts. That evening he was on the phone with his mom while shopping the scarf section, asking her what kind of fabric, and color she preferred. They were on the phone a few minutes. She was proud of him for taking the initiative to stop and shop, but asked him to hurry home before it got too late. As an African American, and a minor, she was worried about his safety on the streets after dark.
He arrived home empty handed and visibly angry. Traumatized. Heartbroken. Sad. Unwilling to speak.
Black Lives Matter.
Later that evening, after the sting of pain subsided, he told his mom what happened…
I will spare all of the details, but will share that his mother was heartbroken by what her son experienced and called the Store Leader the next day. He said that he would investigate and get back to her. When he got back to her, this is what he said:
The boy had suspicious and erratic behavior.
He was looking at scarfs
He was looking at women’s body products
He was walking fast
He talked to a store staff person, then he got a basket
He tried to go into the bathroom
We never detained him in there
We never accused him of stealing
We never put our hands on him
but we think he went in there to steal
He must be lying
It’s his words against ours
He was “verbally aggressive”
He was “non-compliant”
He called us “racist”
He had over $100 dollars on him, we don’t know where he got that much money
Perhaps he stole it from somewhere.
We think he comes in here regularly to steal.
We think we’ve encountered him before.
He had on blue jeans and a black hoodie.
He had a skateboard.
He must be thief.
His mother tried to explain to the Store Leader that her son hadn’t been in that store by himself in a year and a half.
She tried to explain to him that she was on the phone with him while he was shopping.
She tried to explain to him that they were upstanding citizens of the community, and that they spend a small fortune in that store.
She tried to explain that her son was Christmas shopping, with his own money, and his own debit card.
She tried to explain to him that her son was not a thief.
She told him that it’s not a crime for black people to have money.
It’s ok for black people to have money.
It seems like it’s a crime to be poor, it’s a crime to be rich, it’s a crime to be a teenager.
And apparently, it’s a crime to be a black teenager at the Oakland Whole Foods.
The mother tried to explain that they lived in the community, went to school in the community, participated in the community, gave back to the community, and shopped at that store a couple times a week.
None of that mattered to the store leader, who could not, would not, connect with their humanity.
Black Lives Matter?
She told him she wanted to see the store’s security footage. He said he would look at it and get back to her. He never got back to her.
Her son is now afraid to go into the store on his own. His faith is shattered. His heart is broken. Once again, his community has criminalized him for his blackness. He wants to protect himself. He is not safe in the Oakland Whole Foods store.
She wonders if she should seek help.
Because…Black Lives Matter.
“He was acting suspicious. He was looking at women’s things. He was walking fast. He was non-compliant and verbally aggressive.”
These are the things she hears over and over again, right before they lock black people up or shoot black people down.
It’s been familiar, but this time it’s too familiar. This time, it’s her son.
It could have been worse.
She’s thankful it wasn’t worse that night.
But she knows, that for many young black people, it is worse.
Others have been locked up. Others will be locked up.
Many are serving time, some are six feet under.
This is a progressive community.
This is where Black Lives are supposed to Matter.
This is her community.
This scares her.
She vows not to shop, where her children can’t shop, no matter how convenient, organic or progressive it claims to be.
Nostalgically, she remembers when they turned the old abandoned Cadillac dealer into the Oakland Whole Foods. She remembers how excited she was to have it’s presence in her community. It was a love affair of the heart. Her heart is now broken. The relationship, severed. The store does not love her family, the way her family loves the store. The management does not value their Black lives.
Her son will never go into that store again. Neither will she. Until there is resolution. Restitution. An apology.

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