By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
I am always on the alert to make sure that Black Americans are treated fairly and justly. No, I do not go around searching all the time for what is wrong with society and with the world in which we live. The truth is whenever it is possible I would rather point out and lift up what is right and just. Yet when it comes to assessing the progress or lack of progress for Black America, we should avoid being socially and politically blind. We must see facts as facts and not become victims because of the lack of consciousness and awareness.
When it comes to finding out a set of facts, verses depending on the observations and reports of others, there is nothing more instructive that getting a firsthand experience and knowledge about a matter of serious concern. Over the past several years, there have been a series of incidents and situations where Black Americans and others have been targeted for unfair treatment as a result of “racial profiling.”
Racial profiling while driving, walking, shopping, traveling on transportation systems and in other places has had a debilitating impact on the intergenerational mindset of millions of Black Americans. This may surprise some but I do want to talk about what I experienced personally this fall while shopping at various MACY’S department stores in New York, Washington, D.C, Los Angeles and in Atlanta.
Of course, I had heard that there had been allegations about past incidents of racial profiling while shopping at some of the major department stores across the nation. MACY’s is the largest department store chain in the United States. Given the fact that Black Americans spend in excess of $1.2 trillion as consumers each year, one should expect that we would be welcomed to shop inside all major retail stores.
When I went inside of the flagship MACY’S store at Herald Square in New York City recently one evening to purchase a neck tie, I first noticed that there was an unexpected array of Black American, Latino American, Asian American and White American salespersons. In other words the diversity of the salesforce in MACY’s was very evident. They all really exhibited a respectful, helpful and wholesome attitude toward me and other customers who were busy looking for the best quality product at the best sale price.
I went over to one young brother in his late 20s and asked him if I could speak to his floor manager. I wanted to inquire about MACY’s inclusivity not just for the floor salespersons, but also for the floor and retail department managers. He said, “Of course Sir, I am the manager of the men’s department on this floor. How can I help you?”
I smiled and responded, “Excuse me, I want to know if you are indicative of MACY’s commitment to racial and ethnic inclusivity in employment, especially at the managerial level?” He said, “Yes I am representative of how MACY’s continues to move forward to give opportunities for long term career development.” His name was Steven and he further affirmed, “Sir, we have a strict non-discriminatory policy at all levels of MACY’s management and employment. In fact I take pride in how MACY’s today treats all people who shop here and who work here.”
I later journeyed to the west coast and inside of the MACY’s in South Central LA, I found the same inclusive array of brothers and sisters all working together in the retail sector with a mutual respect for all their customers. At a time of severe renewed racial polarization in too many communities like in Ferguson, Mo., it was a rather pleasant scene to witness also in Atlanta and in Washington, D.C. to see the actual opposite of racial bigotry and prejudice at work again inside of MACY’s department stores in those cities respectively. I think other large retail chains should learn from what MACY’s is doing to welcome customers and to help engender a sustainable generation of multiracial managers, executives and eventually business owners.
The economic development of our communities needs more corporate partners and supporters like MACY’s. Let’s remember to vote! Let’s continue to demand freedom, justice and equality. If you are going to shop, spend your money where we are respected.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.