Oakland woman says son was racially profiled at Whole Foods

Byby Elissa Harrington via KGO logo
Saturday, December 30, 2017
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An Oakland woman says her 13-year-old son was humiliated at Whole Foods while trying to buy a Christmas present. She says he was escorted out when he tried to bring his basket into the bathroom.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- "My children were born and raised in this community. They should be able to shop safely at the local health food store," said Marlena Henderson.

She says employees at Whole Foods in Oakland racially profiled her teenage son, kicked him out of the store, and then defended their actions by saying he was aggressive and used other terms that stereotype young, black boys.

The incident happened on Dec. 21.

The 13-year-old stopped into the Whole Foods near Lake Merritt to buy his mother a Christmas gift.

Henderson said he made the honest mistake of taking his basket into the restroom. ) "He went and got a hand basket and then he tried to go into the bathroom. He still had his basket. Because he's 13 he did not know he was not supposed to take it into the bathroom."

"Two men in polo shirts came in after him, yelled at him -- accused him of stealing," Henderson added. "I was horrified because he was trying to be independent. He was trying to be responsible. He was shopping for gifts. He was trying to be generous."

Marlena posted a detailed account of her story on social media, which has now been shared hundreds of times.

Some people are threatening to boycott Whole Foods. Henderson just wants to see change.

"They need to apologize to my son. I think they also need to have some sort of training with their management," Henderson told ABC7 News.

Whole Foods released a statement saying the company has zero tolerance for discrimination. "We take matters like this extremely seriously and have zero tolerance for violence or discrimination at Whole Foods Market. We conducted a full investigation of the situation, including the review of surveillance video, interviews with loss prevention and accounts from other individuals who witnessed the event. While we cannot share specifics as the customer is a minor, what has been described on social media does not coincide with our findings. We've been in contact with the family of the customer to discuss the matter in more detail."