The head of Nordstrom Rack plans to meet with three Black teens who were falsely accused of stealing from one of the retailer’s locations in St. Louis.
Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor, and Eric Rogers II were shopping at the Rack in Brentwood, Missouri last week when they noticed store employees watching and following them around the store. There was a brief altercation in the retailer when a customer allegedly called them “punks” and asked “are your parents proud of you for what you do?”, according to St. Louis Dispatch.
Lee, a 19-year-old freshman at Alabama A&M University, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he felt “nervous, and like I couldn’t be there.”
After calling his mother for advice, Lee said he asked to speak with a manager.
One elderly customer referred to one of them as punks after they’d asked to speak with someone, drawing more attention to their presence.
“I was totally embarrassed, and we’re the only ones defending ourselves against everyone in the store,” Lee told the Post-Dispatch.
A manager stepped in once the situation between them and the woman bubbled up.
“I knew it was coming, but at the same time, I was feeling embarrassed, agitated, mixed emotions with the whole situation because I know we didn’t deserve it,” Taylor, a high school senior, told CBS affiliate KMOV.
The trio still decided to buy something, Rogers told the news channel, but noticed Brentwood police pull into the parking lot as they left.
Lee told the Post-Dispatch they showed their receipts, which matched the items they bought.”The police were actually good,” Rogers, also a high school senior, told KMOV. “They understood where we were coming from and they showed us that they were just doing their job.”
Lee’s mother, Twyla, said she was happy about how open cops were to hear their side, but irate over how Nordstrom Rack’s staff acted.
“It makes me really furious because I pour so much into my son and I’ve raised him to do the right thing,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “I’m a single mother raising an African-American male child, and I fear this, and now this fear has become reality.
Nordstrom Rack, which didn’t immediately return a request for comment, told local media that Thomas reached out to the teens’ families to set up a meeting.
“We didn’t handle this situation well, and we apologized to these young men and their families,” the company said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch. “We’re enhancing our internal practices and training to help ensure this doesn’t happen again. We want all customers to feel welcome when they shop with us, and we don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
We understand the gesture of the president coming down to apologize, however, every employee in that store responsible for this situation needs to apologize to these kids face-to-face.