Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Deputy mayor says she was racially profiled. Store owner says she wasn't.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city's African-American deputy mayor, Kanika Tomalin, turned to Facebook over the weekend to call out a local clothing store for what she says was blatant racial profiling.

Tomalin said she was shopping at the Central Avenue boutique MISRED Outfitters on Saturday when a clerk asked her and her cousin to prove they were eligible for the store's "Healthcare Appreciation Day Discount." The clerk, Tomalin said, had not asked the white woman in line ahead of them to prove she was a health care worker.

Later that day, Tomalin blasted the store on her personal Facebook page:

"Was I really just blatantly racially profiled while shopping on the 600 block of our beloved 'Burg? Wow. #misreadinmisred."

Store owner Sara Stonecipher wasn't there when the incident took place, but after talking to her clerk, she's convinced that no one was racially profiled. She said she wished that Tomalin, a frequent customer whom Stonecipher said she has a good relationship with, had talked to her first before taking the dispute to social media. MISRED's Facebook page has been bombarded with critical comments.

There's a political tinge to this dispute: Stonecipher and her husband, Nathan, are supporters of former Mayor Rick Baker, who is locked in a bitter election fight with Tomalin's boss, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Tomalin has since removed her Facebook post but has not said why. She wrote in the post that she wasn't encouraging any kind of retributive action against the store.

Tomalin told the Tampa Bay Times that she has no regrets about posting it. She remains convinced that she and her cousin, who are both African-American, were treated differently from a white customer. She was shocked that Stonecipher was upset that she had not personally contacted her.

"Why is it my obligation to protect her?" Tomalin said.

For "Health Care Appreciation Day," MISRED Outfitters offered a $5 gift card for every purchase of $25 or more. "Just Show Your Badge!" the ad said. It was displayed 12 times inside the store, Stonecipher said, as well as on social media.

Tomalin said the white customer ahead of her at the register was asked by the clerk if she was a health care professional. That customer was given the deal, Tomalin said, without having to show proof that she worked in health care.

Tomalin said that when her cousin was at the register, she asked for the same discount. Tomalin said her cousin works for the BlueCross BlueShield insurance company. Then Tomalin said the clerk asked her cousin for proof.

When they pointed out the difference in the way they were treated compared to the white customer, Tomalin said, the clerk was "flippant and dismissive."

Stonecipher offered a different version of events from the store clerk, who she said was an 18-year-old Latina. The clerk said the customer did show her identification to prove she was a nurse. But the clerk said she overheard Tomalin and the cousin in line say they didn't qualify, so she didn't offer them the discount.

The owner said they weren't eligible for the deal anyway: They spent $21.60.

"That's really the crux of it," Stonecipher said. "We've always treated everyone professionally and respectfully. Honestly, it's mind-blowing to me."

Tomalin said the dispute wasn't about the deal. She was upset that they were treated very differently, that a white customer was not asked to produce identification and they were.

"The discount was never a variable in our discussions," Tomalin said, "and it's disingenuous to suggest that."

The Stoneciphers are themselves prominent residents. Nathan Stonecipher is a co-owner of Green Bench Brewing Co. and chairman of the board of trustees at St. Petersburg College. They're listed as hosts for Baker's fundraiser in the Warehouse Arts District on Friday.

Sara Stonecipher said she hoped politics played no role in the dispute.

"I really hope that would not be the case," she said. "I'm very scared right now. I'm a small-business owner."

Given Tomalin's high profile, the store owner said it was unfair of the deputy mayor to subject her shop to online criticism before reaching out to her.

"Kanika has a lot of followers and is very influential because she is the deputy mayor," Stonecipher said. "I'm trying to be what St. Pete is all about. There was no need for this to happen."

Last week, Kriseman urged residents to buy from locally owned small businesses that had been hurt by Hurricane Irma. Stonecipher fears Tomalin's Facebook post will hurt business even more.

Tomalin said any suggestion that her Facebook post was politically motivated was "ridiculous."

"If it was political, I would not have been shopping in that store in the first place," Tomalin said. "It was not politically motivated. I would not ever, under any circumstances, subject anyone in the city to that for political advancement."

Tomalin left a voicemail for Sara Stonecipher, who responded with an email. But as of Wednesday, they had not spoken to each other. The incident has left bruised feelings all around.

"She has a lot of people who look up to her," Stonecipher said. "At the end of the day, nobody racially profiled them. She's got the upper hand in this. I'm just a small-business owner. I don't understand why she did this."

Tomalin said she feels no obligation to stay quiet when she was the one who was racially profiled.

"To be treated in a discriminatory manner while being serviced," Tomalin said. "That is what I experienced."

 
Comments
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18