Tennessee man felt racially profiled at department store

Tennessee
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A Knoxville man says he was mistreated at a department store because of his race. Rather than it being an isolated incident, he says this has become part of the everyday experience of being a person of color in our society.

Dametraus Jaggers recently ran for the Knox County Board of Education and is a father, husband, PhD. student and pastor. He posted to his Facebook page Thursday saying he’d been racially profiled at the Belk store in West Town mall.

Jaggers says racial profiling happens more often than we’d like to think or admit. 

“But the reality is in that moment I was just seen as a black man as a potential threat,” he said.

He says on Thursday he went to Belk hoping to buy a new suit for an awards ceremony. Jaggers says he noticed a young woman and young man arguing who were both black.

“She was telling the guy to get away from her and leave her alone,” said Jaggers.

He recognized the woman and wanted to defuse the situation and called police. The man left, the woman went outside, and Jaggers says he followed to make sure everything okay.

Jaggers tried going back in and was stopped by mall security. 

“And he said, ‘Well, sir, you can’t go back in the store,'” said Jaggers.

Jaggers feels had he been a different race, it would’ve been different. He feels security and managers at the store assumed all three of them were connected. 

“Embarrassment, anger, and sadness because I’m well aware of the context and the issues that we continue to deal with but a moment where you try to do something right, doing right still isn’t good enough,” he said.

A day later, Jaggers hopes to start a conversation about racial profiling. 

“I felt like how many occasions has this happened to someone and that person has not said anything,” Jaggers said.

Going forward Jaggers says he won’t be shopping at Belk anymore and while he has spoken to a few managers from the store, he wants solutions. 

“Apology, you know, it’s appreciated but hte apology itself doesn’t address the root cause of hte issue, implicit bias training, cultural competency training,” said Jaggers.

Jaggers says what’s really hurting him is thinking about his family. 

“The conversation I’m going to have to have with  my two sons at one point about what it’s like to be a black man in this country.”

Belk said in a statement: “Following an internal investigation it has become clear to us after the initial confusion created by the altercation that Mr. Jaggers had been trying to deescalate the situation that required intervention from mall security and local police. Mr. Jaggers is certainly welcome in our store.

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