At first there was outrage. Kimberly Houzah told everyone watching her Facebook Live video to boycott Victoria’s Secret. She pledged to call the store’s corporate headquarters and report the racist behaviour she’d just been subjected to. She told her friends that she’ll never set foot inside the store again, even if “I’m down to my last pair of drawers.”
Then, she began to sob.
“I just, you’re kidding me,” she says, wiping tears, searching for words.
“I already didn’t need to be spending the money, but I’m like, you know - I’m going to treat myself... and I got to come down here and deal with this B.S.”
Houzah, 27, a traveling nurse from Calhoun County, Alabama, detailed most of the experience - and the effect it had on her - in the Facebook Live post, which has been viewed more than a million times since Wednesday.
On Thursday she was shopping at Quintard Mall in Oxford, Alabama. She wanted to get a pair of boyfriend sweatpants, and she thought about splurging on a T-shirt. Instead, she got insulted and kicked out because, she says, she’s the same race as a woman accused of a crime.
As Houzah was shopping, another black woman was caught shoplifting, she said.
Then, she said, the manager walked over to her and the only other black woman in the store and told them to leave.
On Houzah’s video, the manager can be heard telling the other black woman: “I just need y’all to go.” The mall’s security guards approached as well.
“She can’t tell us why, but we’re kicked out the store,” Houzah said on the video. “Because another black female gets caught stealing, me and the other black female here have to be affiliated, so we’re all put out.”
Houzah said she didn’t know either of the other black women at the store. None of the dozen or so white shoppers were asked to leave.
“You don’t want to be that person that feels like everybody’s racist, and I don’t feel like everybody’s racist,” she said after being kicked out, continuing the video from her car. “But we just happen to be three black people in Victoria’s Secret and we got to be together. She’s going to say you, you and you, get out. All y’all get out.”
In a statement, Victoria’s Secret said it had reached out to Houzah directly to “express our sincere apology.
“What happened at our store should not have happened and does not represent who we are or what we stand for. The store associate involved in this matter is no longer employed with the company. Victoria’s Secret is adamant that all customers regardless of race be treated with dignity and respect at all times.”
Daymon Ward, the mall’s general manager, told the Anniston Star that the mall was conducting its own investigation into the incident and was “committed to ensuring that all of our guests are treated with the utmost respect.”
On Thursday, Houzah returned to the store with a group of supporters, according to the Birmingham News. Employees apologised.
She told the newspaper she’d probably shop at her favourite store again, just not at the Oxford location.
“I’m a little more settled about it today,” she said Thursday. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. I mean, I can’t change who I am. I’m an African American female and I just want to be treated like everybody else.”
The Washington Post
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