Discrimination at Macy’s

One Person’s Story of Discrimination– Assert your Rights!

Upon exiting the Macy’s store at Southland Mall in a hurry to meet her husband and two of their sleepy children, Samira and their three other kids were approached by security guards accusing her of stealing a sweater that she thought she’d put back on the rack, but was accidentally left under her kids’ coats on their stroller. After explaining this, one guard understandingly told her to put the sweater back but the other guard insisted that she was stealing and took her and her three small children into a room for interrogation.

Confused by the accusation, Samira attempted to call her husband who was waiting out in the parking lot. When she started to dial the number, the guard took her phone away from her and hung up on her husband.  Samira’s oldest son, aged 10, told the security officers she did not speak English but they responded that they don’t care.  Then the children started crying, so she asked if she could pay for the shirt and leave.  At this point, the security threatened her and said she better sit still because they don’t want to do anything bad to her in front of her kids.

Samira’s husband went in to find her in the store, however a Macy’s manager would not tell him where she was or let him see her. After waiting insistently, security finally sent the children out to their father but still would not let him see Samira to explain to her in Arabic what was going on.

Meanwhile, Samira, who speaks very limited English, was told by Macy’s security after being held and having her items searched for almost an hour, that she would be released if she would simply sign a piece of paper. Samira insisted that they let her husband read the paper before signing, but they would not let her. Without being able to read English, she signed the paper, eager to go home with her small children who were scared and crying.  Unknowingly however, she had signed an admission of guilt to shoplifting a $32 dollar sweater, at which point Macy’s security called in the Hayward police and said she was going to jail for shoplifting.

Samira was not provided with an interpreter or translator at any point in the process. Furthermore, Samira who has been a citizen of the United States for 11 years, was mockingly asked by police if she is from Iraq or Afghanistan and her scarf and outer robe were forcibly removed to take her picture and run her record, of which she has none prior. Because of the false confession, Samira was left with little option, and settled the charges and paid a three hundred dollar fine as well as other fines to Macy’s.

Samira and her husband called the Anti-Discrimination Hotline at the Arab Resource and Organizing Center to report and find support around this regrettable, and unfortunately not uncommon, incident of being subjected to anti-Arab discrimination and mockery, racism and shaming confrontations, and denial of the basic right to an interpreter or translator when faced with charges.

That same week, AROC heard of another similar act of discrimination and racial profiling at Macy’s.  We ask you to please call us if you hear of any similar cases of discrimination or harassment at Macy’s or elsewhere, so that we’re able to keep a record of these instances and establish patterns.

We also ask you to assert your rights:

  • You have a right to an attorney
  • You have a right to not sign anything until you fully understand the content
  • In most cities, you have a right to interpretation or translation at the jail if you need it.  Demand this right.  If you’d like more specifics, please call AROC at 415-861-7444.