The list of racist retail incidents across the nation just got its latest addition after a Howard University graduate detailed the racial profiling horror — complete with handcuffs— that she was subjected to during a visit to a Victoria’s Secret in Tennessee this week.
Jovita Jones Cage previously bought a bra before bringing it back because its sensor wasn’t removed at the time of purchase. She went back to the store in the Carriage Crossing mall in Collierville Monday with her receipt, which an employee verified before removing the sensor. However, all hell broke loose when she then decided to do some browsing in the store before leaving, WREG Memphis reported.
A Collierville Police Officer decided to profile Cage while she was on her way to the store’s fitting room. Cage, who is a children’s tutor, was instantly accused of shoplifting and ordered to put both of her hands behind her back.
“The police officer walked straight up to me and slapped handcuffs on me. I think it was for the simple fact that I was black,” she said, adding that the store manager called the cops without speaking with her.
The horrific scene played out in front of store shoppers, which could have been friends or colleagues of Cage.
“I don’t know if one of the parents of the kids I tutor could’ve been there,” she added, touching on the stigma and embarrassment felt by people of color who are racially profiled. “I don’t know if one of my old professors could’ve been in there.”
The officer forcefully searched her purse before finally realizing that she hadn’t taken any merchandise. A crying Cage was escorted out of the store and banned from coming back. Really?
She later made a complaint to Victoria’s Secret corporate office, speaking with a representative who only offered a standard apology and a $100 gift card, which Cage turned down. The company later pulled out all the familiar stops: an executive’s phone call to Cage, investigation, termination of the employee involved in the incident and promise to better educate workers on the stores’ policies.
Cage was still dealing with the trauma over the incident, having reached out to the NAACP for help. The standard protocol for stores when employees are caught racial profiling doesn’t fully address the biases that prompt discriminatory behaviors.
“They’re going to have to do more,” Cage said. “I want justice not only for me, but for people everywhere. I hope after this, other victims of racial profiling will come forward. It’s solidarity. It’s not just about African-Americans. It’s about everyone being treated fairly.”