There’s an old saying that “One rotten apple spoils the barrel” and Apple should be thankful that they got out of this one with their skins. A group of African students were asked to leave the Apple Store in Melbourne, Australia’s Highpointe Shopping Centre this week because staff was concerned they may shoplift.
A group of students shopping at the Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne, Australia found more than long lines at the Apple Store. Petrie Alemu, Mabior Ater, Mohamed Semra, Ese Oseghale, Gereng Dere and one unidentified young man from Maribyrnong College got a shock as they were asked to leave the store this week by concerned staff. I smell a rotten Apple: staff needs an upgrade.
A private security guard in the store’s employ initially raised concerns about the young African teens’ presence. The guard alerted an Apple staffer who confronted the young men. A mall security staffer was summoned but did not get involved. So, what exactly did these young men do to create such alarm?
They shopped while not white.
As you see in the video, the Apple staffer tells the young men, “These guys are just a bit worried about your presence in our store. They’re just a bit worried you might steal something.” Yes, you read that right. I imagine you’re thinking, “What in the name of justice just happened!?” So were the students, who politely protested the treatment.
The Apple staffer’s response: “Guys, end of discussion, I need to ask you to leave our store.”
One of the students, Mabior Ater, said, “I’ve been coming to Highpoint for a long time and I never thought something like this would happen … of course I was offended.”
Who wouldn’t be offended?
Ryan Ling, Highpointe Centre’s manager, said, “Melbourne’s West is a multicultural area and we want to stress that Highpoint welcomes all guests.” It seems to me that Mr. Ling should make sure his tenants and their employees share his sentiments.
Mabior went on to say that, though this is not the first time he’s experienced racist treatment, “this is the first time it has been this big.” The young men uploaded the video to Facebook, where it went viral with over 33,000 views. It can also be seen on YouTube. Social media and fellow students have rallied to support the young men.
According to Mabior, “A lot of people shared it (the video) and they were very angry that this was still happening in 2015.” As well they should have been.
Maribyrnong College principal Nick Scott accompanied the young men to the store on Wednesday afternoon to get an apology. A senior Apple store manager met with them. Mabior said, “She apologised to us and told us that we are welcome here anytime. It feels like we have justice now.” [Emphasis added]
An Apple corporate spokesperson announced that the company is investigating the situation and reinforced Apple’s commitment to cultural diversity and inclusion. She passed along a quote from Apple CEO Tim Cook:
“We want every person who joins our team, every customer visiting our stores or calling for support to feel welcome. We believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. That applies throughout our company, around the world with no exceptions.”
Another statement from Apple added, “inclusion and diversity are among Apple’s core values. We believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. That applies throughout our company, around the world with no exceptions. We’ve looked into the details of the situation and we apologise to the customers involved. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure all our customers are treated the way they should be.”
Maybe it’s because I’m an American and we get a bit “You’ve wronged me, pay up!” about things, but I think that Mabior Ater’s gracious response is an amazing example of humanity at its finest. I’m not certain of the mechanics of Australia’s legal system, but I’m certain that if this had happened in the U.S., I’d be writing about a lawsuit, not an apology.
Sure, we Americans can be overly litigious, but in this case, I think Apple should be thanking the gods of commerce for its good fortune and the inherent kindness of these young students. I also think that the private security guard and the Apple staffer on video should be shown the door exactly as were these young men. The manager and the corporation may have apologized, but there is no mention of an apology from either of the two who were actually involved in the incident.
In addition, Apple should be falling over itself equipping these young men with everything a modern student needs or wants from that store. Trust me, Apple’s pockets are deep and six student shopping sprees is a drop in the bucket compared to a lawsuit.