Primer or Profiling?

Bluemercury in hot water for a recent racial incident in Princeton


Photo by Farooq Rathore

Ashanti Jenkins, Contributor, Class of 2020

The bright and cheerful atmosphere associated with Bluemercury was overshadowed by the dark cloud of prejudice Friday February 7, 2020. A group of six local teenage girls entered the Princeton store, the condescending glances were impossible to ignore but what truly shocked them was when one worker mentioned out loud that her coworkers should be aware of where the discreet emergency button was in case they needed the police. Many of the girls were unsure how to react.

“It made me feel disrespected, it wasn’t something that I had ever directly experienced.” Says Emellie Caivinagua, EHS class of 2020, who was among the group.

Outside the teens displayed mixed emotions, “I was numb for a second and then the disappointment set in that things like this were happening in 2020”, shared Brianna Roberts, EHS class of 2020, a makeup enthusiast, and one who was also present that day. After a few moments two of the six girls re-entered the store to address the situation.

They went up to the clerk involved in the incident and calmly explained that what she did was racial profiling but instead of engaging in active listen the clerk cut them off to give a clearly made up excuse.

Ewing’s Voice reached at to Bluemercury who simply stated that the incident was being “investigated”. The girls are asking are asking for support from their community but also that Bluemercury addresses the situation.

More and more research on subconscious reactions to different races has been coming to light. Mahzarin Banaji of Yale conducted a study on how unconscious attitudes can affect brain activity, ” White Americans show what we might call an in-group preference; that is they show a swiftness to associate white with good and black with bad.”

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo commented on the study, ” These unconscious, high-speed connections can reveal a bias quite different from our conscious beliefs.” Studies like this are crucial to addressing what occurred at Bluemercury and other similar situations.

Although the associate may have not knowingly reacted in a negative manner she had likely had a subconscious negative reaction to a large, diverse group of teens entering a store predominately frequented by older white women.

This disconnect could have put her on edge, but it is no excuse for how she treated those girls and the danger she could have put them in.

Ewing’s Voice is still waiting for the results of the investigation from Bluemercury and will update the article should that response arise.