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I-Team: Woman says she was racially profiled at Cary Victoria's Secret store

Shopper taken to mall security office and held for nearly an hour.
February 20, 2014 3:59:04 PM PST
Chyna Gunter is a single mother of three who lives in Cary. She told the ABC11 I-Team that she and her kids learned a difficult lesson on a recent Sunday afternoon trip to the Cary Towne Center mall.

She told us she was a victim of what she feels was racial profiling at the mall's Victoria's Secret store.

"I just got treated really bad that day. I mean, I got really treated bad," she said.

Gunter said a mall security guard stopped her in the store and then escorted her out.

"They come up to me, and they say, 'Miss, can you come with me?' And then I said to them, 'For what?' He said, 'Because you look like somebody that's been banned from the store.' So then I said to him, 'Well let me show you my ID, so I can show you I'm not that person,'" Gunter recalled.

Gunter said security never showed her a person of the picture they thought she might be, so she doesn't know if she looks like the person or not.

"I don't believe it was another person," Gunter offered.

Gunter was taken by security to the Cary Police Department substation inside the mall.

"I'm sitting there, and I'm crying," said Gunter. "So then ... maybe like about 40 minutes to an hour, they're like, 'You're free to go.' And I'm like, 'I'm free to go?' I'm like - they're like, 'Yeah.' They're like, 'It wasn't you.'

Gunter told the I-Team she thinks she was profiled because of her race.

"They did this because I was a black woman. That's what I kept saying to myself," she said.

Gunter herself works in retail and says she was shocked, so she called the store's regional manager and the woman offered her a $100 gift card, but she refused.

The I-Team spoke with Duke professor Sandy Darity who's the director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality. He told us he's experienced racial profiling himself while shopping.

"In my own case, when somebody comes up to me and says, 'Can I help you?' that can be interpreted as being a considerate - providing considerate service. But on the other hand, in my experience, that usually means that I'm being given a signal that I'm being watched," said Darity.

Darity told us he's looked at studies that try to confirm the existence of racial profiling. The most common is sending two shoppers - of different races - dressed alike into a store.

"Those studies have had mixed results. Sometimes they do find that there are very, very stark differences in the treatment of the white customers and the black customers and in other case, they don't. It depends very heavily, I think, on the culture of the particular store and on the professionalism of the staff," said Darity.

We asked Gunter what the phrase "shopping while black" means to her.

"That there is people out there in this world that have so much hatred toward black people that they don't give you a chance," she responded.

Gunter said her experience at the Victoria's Secret in Cary has changed the way she shops. She no longer carries a purse and says she doesn't want to be falsely accused of shoplifting.

"I never thought that things really happened like this," she said.

"It's like, 'Wow, this really happened to me,'" she continued. "It just feels like a dream."

Victoria's Secret sent the I-Team this statement:

Victoria's Secret is adamant that all customers be treated with decency and respect.  

We take Ms. Gunter's allegation that she was not treated in this manner very seriously and have expressed to her our sincere apology.  

We are conducting a thorough investigation as we're committed to ensuring that everyone feels welcome in our stores."

Essence Magazine published an article a few months ago with tips explaining what you should do if you have a "shopping while black" experience.

Click here to read the article

The magazine says you should always have ID, keep receipts close by, and if you're stopped, stay calm and file a complaint if you're unjustly targeted.

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