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Worker's blackface 'costume' leaves East Bay man offended

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An East Bay man says he was offended by an employee's black painted face as a Halloween costume at a Staples store. (Courtesy: Harrold Leffall)

An East Bay man says he was offended by an employee's black painted face as a Halloween "costume" at a Staples store.

Harrold Leffall stopped by the Staples in Pleasant Hill Friday to purchase a cash register. When he questioned an employee about the registers, he was shocked to see her face which was covered in black paint.

"I said, 'ma'am, where are the cash registers?' Then she turned around and I saw this white lady in blackface and I kind of froze," Harrold Leffall said.

He then questioned another store employee about it. "I said the lady over there is in blackface, and as a black man I am very offended and I think that's very inappropriate." He says the other employee replied, "she said it was a sharpie costume, and I said, 'sharpie or no sharpie as a black man to see a white person in black face is very offensive.'"

Blackface is a form of theatrical make up used by white performers to portray black people in the 1800's up until the Civil Rights Movement.

"The nervous giggle in the store I felt like it was making fun of African-Americans," said Leffall.

He left the Staples frustrated and sat in his car for a few minutes. But, he couldn't leave. Then he went back in the store to speak to the store manager.

He questioned the manager about it who then told him," I know what happened, and they have already told me," Leffall then replied, "what made you think that was OK?"

The public relations staff for Staples and HP says the employee in the photograph works for a third party company called Marketsource which contracts for HP at some retail stores.

Staples issued this statement saying, "A representative from HP who was in one of our stores wore a costume for Halloween that they intended to have represent an office product, but didn't realize it could be considered offensive to some of our customers. While it was unintentional, it was still inappropriate and once this was raised to the representative, they immediately removed the costume. Staples apologizes to any customers that may have viewed a photo of the associate on social media. We respect diversity and try to foster a sense of diversity and inclusion in our stores, as well as provide an atmosphere in which all customers feel comfortable."

Leffall says he's not buying that apology. He also doesn't plan to shop there anymore.

"A company that doesn't have a level of sensitivity to a struggle of a people that is a large part of their customer base is not a company that I am going to support," said Leffall.

The woman is no longer working at that store. Her company's HR Team is investigating.

Related Topics:
societyracismshoppingconsumerAfrican Americansblack historyPleasant Hill
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