The growing list of innocuous things that black people have the police called on them for doing — a list that includes golfing, having a nice apartment and not waving at a white person — now includes being at a Nordstrom Rack.
Mekhi Lee, a 19-year-old graduate of private St. Louis Catholic school DeSmet Jesuit High, was shopping for prom clothes with friends (who were also black) at a Nordstrom Rack in East St. Louis on Thursday.
When they noticed they were being watched by store employees, they felt nervous and moved farther into the store, according to Lee. He called his mother, Twyla Lee, who suggested he talk to the manager. He didn’t get the chance. Before he could, an old woman called one of his friends a punk.
“When she called us a punk, and she didn’t have anything to do with the situation, everyone in the store is against us looking at us crazy, we didn’t do anything,” Lee told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I was totally embarrassed, and we’re the only ones defending ourselves against everyone in the store.”
When they left the store, they were met by police. The teens told police their story and presented their receipts and purchased items to prove nothing was stolen. Nordstrom Rack had apparently reported the boys had stolen several items. They had not.
The teenagers, who the Post-Dispatch kept referring to as “men,” were contacted by Nordstrom Rack President Geevy Thomas who asked to meet with them.
It was discovered earlier this year that Nordstrom, among others, ran ads on extremist YouTube channels according to a CNN report.
Although Nordstrom Rack apologized for the incident and said “We want all customers to feel welcome when they shop with us,” the St. Louis incident is a piece of a much larger and broader trend of 2018 — calling police on black people for committing the crime of existing.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.