Editorial: Dear white people, yes racial profiling is real

James Conley III/Facebook

by Alex Kirkpatrick, Managing Editor

A central Iowa man said he plans to file a lawsuit against a West Des Moines Old Navy store after his Facebook post showing apparent racial discrimination went viral and stirred nationwide outrage.

But if this week’s incident shocked you in the very least, it’s time for a wake-up call.

People of color have experienced racial profiling since — well, the beginning of time — but thanks to evolving technology and the powers of social media, the issue is being brought into the limelight. And rightfully so.

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“Whatever color your skin, you shouldn’t have to deal with that while you’re shopping,” James Conley III told reporters at a news conference held at his attorney’s Des Moines office.

Conley, who is African-American, was accused of stealing a blue coat he wore into the store. At the cash register, an employee snarkily asked if he was going to pay for the apparel, which Conley said was a Christmas gift.

He demanded that store management review surveillance footage. After Conley was cleared, the store did not apologize for the mishap.

Had the roles been reversed — if a white customer were accused of shoplifting — this incident would not have happened.

The videos posted on Conley’s Facebook page are sickening. They’re blood-boiling. But they serve as a crucial reminder that this is what the NAACP is calling a “systemic issue” in Iowa.

It’s not just Old Navy employees at fault. This is an institutional problem that has traditionally allowed society to perpetuate racist rhetoric.

So if this case of blatant racial discrimination angers you, don’t just read about it. Use your socially constructed privilege to acknowledge injustice. And remember: Sitting idly on the sidelines is just as bad as those who instigate racism.