Celebs Who’ve Been Racially Profiled

From Oprah to President Obama, a look at some of the celebrities who've dealt with racial profiling.

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    (The Root) — Because of the tragic death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal last month of his killer, George Zimmerman, the issue of racial profiling has been in the news more than ever. A number of black celebrities have shared their own stories of racial profiling, the most recent being media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who recounted being snubbed in a Swiss store. The moral of Oprah’s story? It appears racial profiling is not limited to America. So here’s a look at other high-profile black Americans who have admitted to being profiled.

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    Danny Glover

    Being one of the most recognizable actors of the ’80s and ’90s didn’t prevent Glover from being a victim of racial profiling. The star of film classics like the Lethal Weapon franchise filed a formal complaint in 1999 against the Taxi and Limousine Commission for discriminating against African-American passengers like him, who were routinely bypassed by cab drivers.


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    The Secret Service

    Six secret service agents helped remind Americans that racism and discrimination remained alive and well in the 1990s. While assigned to guard President Clinton during a visit to the Naval Academy, the black agents never received the meals they ordered at an Annapolis, Md., Denny’s. Their white colleagues were served promptly. As part of a class-action suit brought against the chain in 1993, the agents each received a monetary settlement of $35,000. An interesting bit of trivia from the case: The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who oversaw the suit 20 years ago is current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

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    Oprah Winfrey

    Winfrey has generated headlines over the last week after her account of being denied the opportunity to see an expensive bag up close at a Swiss store because the saleswoman considered the bag “too expensive,” an account the saleswoman now disputes. This is not Winfrey’s first brush with snubbing that she considers racially charged. In 2005 she said she was denied admission into a Hermes store in Paris, and after the New York Post claimed a source blamed the incident on the store having had previous problems with African patrons, it soon became an international incident. On her long-running talk show, Winfrey shared other incidents of profiling, such as when a small boutique denied her entry but admitted white patrons. The store later apologizing upon realizing who she was.

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    The Game

    Recently the rapper claimed he was denied entry into the restaurant Houston’s, with the management telling him his visible tattoos were intimidating to other diners. The Game, however, believes there was more to the denial of service, tweeting, “Racism still exists.”


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    Chris Rock

    Rock has joked about racial profiling as a fact of life in his routines, going so far as to say it’s safer for black drivers to have white passengers just in case you are pulled over by the police, in a sketch on The Chris Rock Show. But the comedian’s family’s experience with racial profiling has been no laughing matter. His mother Rose accused a Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina of discriminating against her in 2006. She alleges the staff went out of its way to delay service. Cracker Barrel has a long history of allegations of discriminatory behavior. The Rev. Al Sharpton joined Rock in a press conference condemning the chain’s treatment of black patrons.

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    Eric Holder

    In a previous interview with The Root the attorney general reminisced about his personal experiences with racial profiling as a young man, when he was stopped for no reason and had his car searched by a state trooper, who told Holder he wanted to see if he had weapons. On another occasion he and friends were also stopped without cause.


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    Screenshot from the Biography Channel


    The “Queen of Tejano” music sadly is now most remembered for her tragic death. She was gunned down by the former president of her fan club. But she was immortalized in the film Selena, in which Jennifer Lopez portrayed her in a star-making role. One of the most memorable moments in the film is when the singer is snubbed by a saleswoman at a high-end boutique. Unbeknownst to the saleswoman, the songstress is seeking a dress to wear to the Grammy Awards. Once Selena is recognized by her Hispanic fans and mobbed accordingly, she channels Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and makes the saleswoman seriously regret the day she ever engaged in racial profiling.

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    President Barack Obama

    During his remarks following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, the president said, “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are probably very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.”

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