Shopping While Black: Detroit’s Civil Rights and Justice Department lawyer racially profiled in Grosse Pointe
GROSSE POINTE — Portia Roberson, an attorney and head of Detroit’s Civil Rights and Justice Department, was racially profiled in Grosse Pointe this weekend.
Shopping at the Talbots on Kercheval, June 29, Roberson went to the store to make a return. She was approached by two Grosse Pointe Police officers when leaving the fitting room.
The police searched her bags and checked her receipt, clearing her of wrongdoing. However, the officer did take her name and other identifying information and informed the store manager Roberson could not be held.
Other shoppers were not stopped.
This is how Roberson described the scenario in her social media update:
“I was in Grosse Pointe today at the Talbots on Kercheval. I had a somewhat large bag with me as well as my purse because I am returning two purchases that I ordered online and I needed a way to carry them in the store. I inform the sales clerk when I walk in that I have the second bag because I have two items to return, however, I want to look around first. I try on a pair of pants that I like so I come back out to see if they have another pair in a different color. I go back into the fitting room to make sure those fit also. I convince myself that I need both pairs (of course) and leave the fitting room to pay for my items and return the others. When I exit the fitting room, I’m confronted by two Grosse Pointe police officers who ask to search my bag and ask me if I have any merchandise in the bag. I tell them to go ahead and search and point out the items and the receipt. He tells me it is clear that someone made a mistake and then takes my bag to the store manager to point out that everything that I have in my possession, I have purchased. They take my name, address, and phone number so it is on “record.” I then proceed to the counter to give them back all the items that I had intended to purchase and to return everything that I had previously purchased. The manager’s explanation was that she had asked the police to do a walk around the store because it was so busy (four customers, including me)…I pointed out to her that after searching me, they left without searching anyone else. I must tell you that my hands were shaking and my voice cracked when speaking. Honestly, I am still shaken. Today, I received a very harsh reminder and I will be calling corporate headquarters in the morning.”
In posting about the incident she used the hashtags #notstealingfromanywherebutdefinitelynottalbots and #postracial.
Lt. Michael Seidel of the Grosse Pointe Police Department said Grosse Pointe Park police responded to the incident and confirmed that there was a call for service.
Grosse Pointe Park made headlines because of its decision to erect a barrier — first of snow, now of permanent materials — between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park. The barrier is the brainchild of developer David Cotton who intends to revive Grosse Pointe Park’s shopping strip.
Calls to Talbots headquarters have not yet been returned.
According to the store’s website, “Talbots stores are designed to convey an open and welcoming feel that complements the brand’s timeless appeal.” They also describe their customer as “well-educated, active in their communities, and socially and culturally aware. They are typically Baby boomers though ageless in both style and attitude. Approximately 70 percent have a college education and the majority is professionally employed.”
Roberson is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University law school. She is the daughter of former Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dalton Roberson.