An employee at an Apple store in Melbourne told six black teenagers to leave the shop because the staff were worried they “might steal something.” The incident was captured on video and started making the rounds on social media yesterday.
According to Mashable, which spoke to some of the teens by phone, the African-born students are all between 15 and 16 years old. In the cell phone footage of the exchange, an Apple employee speaking to two of the high-schoolers states, “These guys are just a bit worried about your presence in our store…They’re just worried you might steal something.”
“Why would we steal something?” one student asks.
“Guys, end of discussion,” the employee responds. “I need to ask you to leave our store.”
Posting on social media, one of the students suggested that while this kind of behavior might be par for the course in the U.S., it should have no place in Australia.
“Racial profiling has to stop,” Mohamen Semra wrote on Facebook, “happens to[o] often in America we don’t need here in Australia too.”
According to Australia’s 9News, the video has now been viewed more than 60,000 times. The students, who have been remarkably gracious about the whole thing in every interview, delivered a measured response to the station.
“Because we were a group of black males—teenagers—and teenagers do a lot of stupid stuff, but you still can’t give black people that stereotype,” Abdulahi Haji Ali told 9News. “Once we heard that we are all pretty shocked… I didn’t believe what I heard.”
Gereng Dere, another student from the group, added, “We have the right to go in and look around like anyone else.”
Apple is reportedly “investigating” the incident, and Mashable reports that it’s unclear whether the employee has been reprimanded or removed. Semra noted on Faceook that Apple issued a private apology to the students but noted the students deserve a public apology as well. “It was the only time in my life I have felt this way, and I’m shocked.”
The students were invited back to the store, accompanied by their white school principal, Nick Scott, on Wednesday. Per Mashable, the employee said, “he apologized if his statement was taken out of context.” (As if there is some magical context in which his words might be regarded as anything but racism, but thanks for trying!)
Watch the video above and comment your thoughts below.