In an incident characterized as racial profiling by her attorneys, a black Michigan woman says she was forced to expose her body to employees at a Detroit-area Target after being falsely accused of stealing a bikini from the store.
Ashanae Davis, 20, said she had been walking out of a Target in Southfield on May 22 when a male security worker, who was black, grabbed her by the arm and prevented her from leaving.
According to Davis’ lawyer Jasmine Rand, a second security worker, who was white, then handcuffed her client and “dragged” her through the store while yelling loudly that Davis was wearing “stolen bikini panties … underneath her clothing.”
“He said that over and over. Loud enough for other customers to hear and loud enough to publicly humiliate our client,” Rand, a prominent civil rights attorney who has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, said at a news conference on Monday.
A Target representative confirmed the guest was swiftly walked by a Target team member directly into the security office of the store.
Davis’ lawyers called this humiliating practice the “Target Walk of Shame,” which they described as a “de facto policy” at Target stores nationwide aimed at embarrassing would-be shoplifters. In 2015, the retailer was sued by a California woman after her 22-year-old son died by suicide after allegedly being subjected to the so-called shame walk.
According to Davis’ attorneys, their client was then escorted to a room, where she was told to lift her shirt and pull down her pants. A white female manager was in the room at the time, as were the two male security workers. The trio found nothing stolen on Davis’ person and eventually allowed her to leave the store.
“At first I was in shock, of course, and it was just very humiliating,” Davis told WXYZ-TV of the ordeal. “I felt degraded. It was sad. I was very upset.”
On Tuesday, Target apologized for the incident and said it had fired one of its employees over what happened. The retailer later told NBC News that it was the black security worker who’d lost his job.
“We want everyone who shops at Target to feel welcomed and respected and take any allegations of mistreatment seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We’re sorry for the actions of our former team member, who created an experience we don’t want any guest to have at Target. Upon reviewing our team’s actions, we terminated the team member who was directly involved and are addressing the situation with the security team at the store.”
Target added that Davis had been stopped because a new bikini with tags still attached was allegedly spotted in her bag. The swimsuit had been purchased from a different store and not from Target, NBC reported.
Reacting to Target’s response to the situation, Rand expressed dismay.
“If only one employee was held accountable for the incident, and that employee was fired on the day we held the press conference, I find Target’s efforts disingenuous. If Target fired only the African American male employee, I find the effort a compounding act of racial discrimination. Hate can’t drive out hate from corporate culture,” she told HuffPost in a Tuesday statement.
“[Target’s] corporate officers need to take a page out of Starbucks’ book and close their stores to do racial and gender sensitivity trainings,” Rand added.
A Target representative said the employee was terminated on May 23, the day after the incident, and not as a result of Monday’s press conference.
Responding to the suggestion that Target employees undergo trainings, the representative said, “We introduced the first of our unconscious bias trainings in 2017, which are rolling out now to all our teams across our company. Additionally, we’re continuing to make it a part of all of our company’s learning and development plans, including the ones we use whenever new team members come onboard.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Davis and her attorneys are planning to take legal action against Target but have yet to file suit.
Rand said her office had received multiple calls from other African-American women who have had “eerily similar experiences at Target.”
“One of the women had a similar experience at the same exact location,” Rand said. “The nation will hear their voices very soon.”
A man in Minnesota accused Target in February of racially profiling him after he was told by a store employee that he couldn’t touch a pair of headphones before buying them.
“You racial profiled me?” James Edward Wright III asked the employee in a cellphone video he captured.
“Sure,” the employee responded.
In April, Target agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company’s criminal background check process was biased against Latinos and African-Americans.
This story has been updated with comment from Target.