Last week Destiny Tompkins, a 19-year-old college student from New York posted on her personal Facebook page about workplace discrimination she experienced at the Banana Republic in the Westchester Mall.
Destiny said that she went to work on October 4th and the district manager who was a white woman stopped in for a visit. After the district manager left Destiny was told to go to the office to speak with Mike who was the store manager and a white man.
When Destiny got to his office Mike started talking to her about the dress code. Destiny assumed he meant that something was wrong with what she was wearing, but it was actually with the style of her hair. Destiny was wearing her hair in long box style braids.
Destiny was told by Mike that her braids were not an “appropriate look for Banana Republic” and that the look was “unkempt” and “too urban” for the brands’ image. Destiny said she felt humiliated in that moment as she explained to her manager that in the winter her hair gets brittle so she wears braids to protect her hair. Mike went on to explain to her that she needed to look into using Shea butter. Destiny was so overwhelmed and uncomfortable over the entire ordeal that she could not even stay to finish her shift.
Destiny posted the entire incident in hopes that people would notice and expose the store for their racism. And it worked. The post was shared over 50,000 times and has received 46,000 reactions. When Buzzfeed posted about the original incident they reached out to the Westchester store location and to the Banana Republic PR team to see if they wanted to comment, but at the time the store was published they had not responded.
A few hours after the story was published PR responded to Buzzfeed and said the following:
“This week, one of our store managers questioned an African American employee’s braided hairstyle. Our team began an immediate investigation and the manager involved was promptly removed from the store. Today we concluded the investigation and can confirm that the manager has been terminated from the company. Banana Republic has zero tolerance for discrimination. This situation was completely unacceptable, counter to our policies, and in no way reflects our company’s beliefs and values.” —Sheikina Liverpool, Banana Republic Spokesperson
I’m happy that the store fired the manager, but I hope that it doesn’t stop there. This can be a learning opportunity not just for Banana Republic but for other companies. Education and training can hopefully help prevent this from happening again.