Leona Lewis Recalls Experience With ‘Racist’ Shop Owner: ‘It Sparked a Rage in Me’

2020-06-09T15:08:15+00:00June 9th, 2020|News|

The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers have sparked a global protest movement against systemic racism and police brutality. They’ve also ignited a parallel reckoning of racist attitudes and incidents in the lives of black and brown people around the world, including singer Leona Lewis, who shared her painful story with fans on Instagram on Saturday (June 6).

Reacting to comments she’s heard about how racist attitudes and incidents are not as prevalent in the U.K., the singer offered her personal experience with discrimination amid the solidarity marches that took place across England over the weekend. She said that after signing a management deal and buying a new place a few years ago, she went out shopping with her dad in London at a “cute little shop” to buy some items for her apartment.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but all of the [other] customers were white, me and my dad were the only black people in there,” she said, recalling that the female store owner was “hovering around” as Lewis browsed the merchandise. “Eventually she came up to my dad and I and said, ‘You need to put that down. You need to put that stuff down! You’re not allowed to touch it.’ And me and my dad were just confused. We looked around because every other person was picking stuff up, looking at it.”

Lewis said she immediately understood what was happening and asked the store owner why she was singling them out, with the woman re-iterating that they needed to put the items down immediately while striking a confrontational tone. She noticed the other shoppers staring and speaking under their breath about the incident as they began leaving the store.

“I became confrontational, because obviously it sparked this rage in me as to why we’re being singled out and targeted,” Lewis said, her voice rising as she tapped into her anger in that moment. “I started saying, ‘No, I’m not putting it down!’ I’m gonna buy it. Why are you targeting us?'” she asked the shop’s proprietor. With just Lewis, her father and the owner left in the store, the singer said the woman became more agitated and ran behind the counter, threatening to call the police.

Her dad, who had been in similar situations before, tried to calm Lewis down. But his counsel to make herself “smaller” and de-escalate just made the singer even angrier. She agreed to leave the store, but not before she responded that she was going to call the police on the shopkeeper for discriminating against them.

Sitting in her car sobbing, Lewis was confused when her dad came back to grab a CD of her music, which he took into the store. Five minutes later, the owner rapped on the car window and apologized to Lewis, saying she didn’t realize who she was. “My heart kind of sank,” Lewis said, realizing that the woman had not recognized her in her “normal” clothes.

“I confronted her and said, ‘You’re racist! You’re a racist. You targeted me and my dad! You wanted to throw us out of the store because of our color,” Lewis said, describing the woman as being “in denial.” The singer chalked the reaction up to the “conditioning” people have to be scared that black people will steal something or that they are to be feared.

Calling racism a “big problem” in the U.K., Lewis said she wished the white people in the store who left out of disgust over the situation had said something instead. “For the people that are not speaking out or saying anything, you’re the people that left. You just left,” she said. “You need to say something. You need to stand with us and acknowledge that it’s happening.”

Watch Lewis’ video below.

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