A vintage clothing store in Savannah, Georgia has backed down from a plan to charge only white customers a $20 fee to book appointments to shop, saying it had been slammed with both negative feedback and threats of lawsuits.
Civvies on Broughton announced the new fee on Monday, as it was reopening by appointment only, after being shut down because of Covid-19. The refundable whites-only $20 deposit was introduced because the shop’s mostly white staff and owners didn’t feel comfortable “upholding a digital financial barrier which could prohibit BIPOC [black, indigenous and other people of color] from shopping at our store at this time on top of the limitations already made by online booking,” according to a since-deleted tweet.
This is Civvies on Broughton today. pic.twitter.com/A6P8rr6A09
However, the very next day, the owners posted a Facebook message saying “it was not our intention to act in any way that might be perceived as discriminatory, and for that we apologize.”
Manager Raine Blunk told local ABC affiliate WJCL that the aborted policy was technically legal, but that Civvies had been inundated with thousands of negative comments and messages.
“This is not based on racial preference on black people, indigenous people, people of color,” Blunk told WJCL. “It is based on a fact that that group of people are most likely to be affected by a loss of historical equity, and we are taking a small step toward that as a business to choose to waive this fee temporarily.”
Nonetheless, US civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, among other characteristics.
Before rescinding the policy, Civvies said white people who are unable to pay the deposit could request to speak to the booking manager about “other options,” but “If you are white and refuse to put down a deposit because you believe our policy is unethical, you will not be accepted for an appointment.”
Twitter users were unmoved by the apology, which didn’t admit that the policy was objectively wrong, and said Civvies was being racist toward white people and making offensive assumptions about non-white customers.
“What a shameful and racist way to run a business, not just for whites but for all people of color,” one netizen said. “It’s insulting to all. The place needs to be boycotted and shut down. What an embarrassment to our society.”
“Wow, it takes a special kind of twisted racist to use racism to fight the supposed racism in their sick mind,” said another.
What a shameful and racist way to run a business! Not just for whites but for all people of color! It’s insulting to all. This place needs to be boycotted and shut down. What an embarrassment to our society
Civvies is an outspokenly political business, raising funds on its Facebook page to pay the bail of Black Lives Matter protesters who have been arrested across the US and featuring a sign in the store that says, “We are shopping on stolen land.”
The company’s website declares, “We do not support white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia or homophobia in our store. We prioritize the comfort of our queer, trans and intersex shoppers, as well as black folks, people of color and femmes.”
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