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Black man alleges racial discrimination at high-end jewellery store

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A black Lachine man is alleging he was a victim of racism at a Westmount jeweller.

Herby Whyne went to Platine Design on Greene Avenue a week ago to buy a piece of jewellery for his goddaughter's baptism. The owner of a St. Henri boxing gym had just left work, dressed in his work clothes: a track suit plus a windbreaker and a tuque because of the brisk weather.

Whyne said in an interview the manager wouldn't buzz him in until after asking several questions about what he wanted, then told Whyne that what he wanted to buy was around $300 and too expensive.

"He said to me, 'What are you looking for?' 'Well, I'm looking for either a bracelet or chain.' He then said to me, 'Well, it's expensive.' I said, 'Excuse me, are you telling me it's too expensive for me to come into your store?' " Whyne said.

Whyne said he was finally let into the store but was fed up with the manager's attitude and left to buy a $200 bracelet at another nearby jewellery store, Lou Goldberg Jeweller, which he says buzzed him in and dealt with him without any problems.

Whyne said he had to speak out.

"It's 2014 for crying out loud. I have no patience or tolerance for stuff like that in our society now in today's age. Regardless of how he portrays me, it cannot be, I cannot let something like this go by, I cannot. It would be wrong of me not doing something," Whyne said.

"In today's age, I've come too far, we've come too far as a society, to let people like this, things like this go on in our society, it doesn't belong."

Store manager Joseph Ben said in an interview he was just being careful since he was working alone with so many valuables and was held up in the past by a young black man, though insisting racism is not an issue. Ben said he has a right to ask a potential client questions before letting them in, saying he has to protect himself. Ben insisted that after decades in the business, he knows his clentele and contends that Whyne wasn't going to buy anything.

"Of course he didn't have any money, he came just to mess around with me. He didn't have 300 dollars. If he was interested, he would have bought something right away," Ben said, adding that "there have been some black customers in the store in the past but they never bought anything."

Ben dismissed the racism allegations, saying that "they have a complex because they're black."

Whyne said he's considering filing a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

"I want to set an example for my son and for his kids, that they should not be declined to go into a store based on his colour or what he looks like or what he dresses like," Whyne said.

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