Rap mogul Jay Z is under pressure to cancel his upcoming watch launch at Barneys New York after two black consumers accused the high end retailer of racial profiling. College student Travon Christian filed a lawsuit against Barneys and the NYPD after he was detained and accused of using a stolen debit card to pay for his purchase of a $300 belt.
In his petition asking power publicist Jana Fleishman to cancel the event, Derick Bowers writes:
Just days later, Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old black woman, came forward with her similar story of discrimination. Kayla says that she was surrounded by police and questioned after she purchased a handbag from the store. She was also incorrectly accused of using a fraudulent card.
We can no longer tolerate blatant prejudice and discrimination. It is clear that the minority buying power is devalued by some. We must withdraw support to those who will not support us.
Barney's responded to the controversy in a smarmy post on its Facebook page.
The following statement can be attributed to a Barneys New York spokesperson:
“Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”
Yesterday, a Barneys publicist crafted a more carefully worded response, with an eye toward better damage control.
So far the petition has collected over 500 signatures. But knowing former crack dealer Jay Z as we do, he won't cancel his watch launch because his thirst for attention trumps his civic duty to protest the unjust treatment of black people.