It’s no secret that shopping while Black is a real and traumatic thing that too many of us encounter out there in those retail streets. But this story truly takes the cake.
According to WAVY-TV, a group of young Black teens got locked into a beauty supply store in Virginia when they were believed to be a group of wanted shoplifters.
See this case of mistaken identity was a result of a group of young Black girls stealing more than $1000 worth of goods from the Coco Beauty Supply in Chesapeake, Virginia on Dec. 28. Rightfully wanting to seek justice, the owner took a screenshot of the robbers he caught on tape and circulated flyers around the mall.
Now, this wouldn’t have been a problem if folks had the ability to recognize that not all Black girls look alike. But alas, here we are.
Fast-forward to Jan. 3, when a completely different group of Black teens, including Reubin Houston’s 16-year-old daughter, were minding their business, grabbing some lunch at a nearby Subway.
After a Subway employee saw them and instantly thought “THOSE ARE THE CROOKS!,” they called security. Shortly after, the girls noticed a guard started following them as they left the Subway and entered the beauty supply store, some three storefronts down. After they purchased a hairbrush, the store’s manager told them they couldn’t leave.
“My daughter asked them, ‘Why? why can’t we leave?’ She says you’ll find out,” Houston said about the girls’ interaction with the manager. Apparently, that’s when the police were called.
But when the officers arrived to the scene and quickly investigated the situation, they determined that the teens WERE NOT the robbers the owners were looking for, prompting the manager to apologize. But Reubin Houston wasn’t going to take his daughter’s mistreatment lying down.
He, in turn, filed a police report claiming the group was racially profiled.
“I’m personally thinking everybody is going to be a suspect if you have braids and weave and you’re Black. I mean, even the kids are suspects now. I guess mine was,” Houston told WAVY, adding, “My daughter and her friends won’t ever forget about that.”
The police stressed that the girls should never have been locked inside the store in the first place and “are consulting with the city commonwealth’s attorney to see how to move forward, including the possibility of abduction charges,” WAVY noted.
However, a section of Virginia Code says that stores like Coco Beauty can detain shoplifting suspects up to an hour if there is probable cause to believe a theft has occurred. But be clear: That wasn’t the case for these young girls at that moment.
We will be watching this story and providing updates as they become available.