SANTA FE, NM - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico announced that the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau (NMHRB) has concluded an investigation into an alleged incident of racial discrimination that occurred last year at a Santa Fe Allsups and has found probable cause that a store clerk discriminated against Jordan McDowell, a visiting university student from New Oreleans, because he is black. The ACLU of New Mexico filed a complaint with the bureau on behalf of McDowell in December, 2018, alleging that a clerk asked McDowell to leave the store because of his race, and called 911 in an attempt to expel him.
“The Human Rights Bureau’s finding of probable cause of racial discrimination is a positive step towards achieving justice for Mr. McDowell,” said ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard. “We cannot allow these incidents of blatant discrimination to go unanswered in our state. As we’ve seen from countless similar incidents across the country, calling the police on someone simply for being black in a convenience store is not only wrong, it’s potentially deadly.”
Mr. McDowell, a pre-med student at Xavier University in New Orleans, was visiting Santa Fe and northern New Mexico in connection with a class trip, staying at a hotel near the Allsup’s Convenience Store located at 650 Cerrillos Rd. On the evening of August 3, 2018, McDowell went to the Allsup’s to purchase snacks, when he was accused by one of the employees as appearing “suspicious and sneaky.” McDowell questioned the employee’s remarks, and continued browsing whereupon the employee called 911 and explicitly stated that she wanted Mr. McDowell removed from the store because he was “arrogant and black.”
Law enforcement arrived at the Allsup’s and questioned Mr. McDowell outside of the store. The responding officers listened to Mr. McDowell’s account and took no further action, allowing him to leave the premises.
In its finding of probable cause, the NMHRB cites statements from the clerk taken by one of the responding officers in which she admits to routinely profiling customers based on their race:
“Once Santa Fe Police Officer McDermott was inside, [the clerk] had described Mr. McDowell as “an issue” at the store, claimed he had been, “wandering around inside for 15 minutes” and that he, “got bent out of shape because we were keeping an eye on his ass…” Further expressing her racial biases, [the clerk] also stated she does the same with, “all the Natives that walk in here, the drunks, or whatever. She again described Mr. McDowell as, “arrogant.”
ACLU-NM Legal Director Leon Howard and ACLU of New Mexico cooperating attorney Richard Rosenstock represent Mr. McDowell in this case.
A copy of the determination of probable cause is available below.