But last week I decided to venture out, in the rain. That nasty misty rain where you look ridiculous holding an umbrella, so you don’t but still get wet anyway. Rain aside, I go to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Now, before you, all start rolling your eyes and say that’s where you made your first mistake. I know.
But this place IS different. Usually, the staff is amiable and helpful. Plus, It’s close to me, and I currently live out in God’s country so being close to anything that doesn’t require a thirty-minute drive gets an A+.
I only needed four things. I knew exactly where they were because I’m always there. I’m there enough to the point that I recognize most of the staff, and they remember me. I grab paper plates (because the dishes are currently in Colorado) and Febreeze (because people were coming to see the house and it smelled like wet dog). I also grabbed a Glade plugin and a refill to hedge my bets on the wet dog smell mixed with sausage in the kitchen.
I go to the self-checkout line because no one is at the one register they always have open for regular service. At this point, no one was at the self-checkout section to act as overseer. I plop my four items down and start scanning at which point this white woman comes running over to me at a breakneck pace. By the time she gets to me, I’ve already scanned my second item.
She asks, “Did you find everything okay?”
I respond with, “Yes.” I continue scanning.
It’s at this point the woman moves closer to me. Now she was already incredibly close to being in the perimeter of physical space where I look at you funny. Now she’s encroached into my physical space, and DEFCON alarms are going off in my head.
She’s over my shoulder now, watching me as I scan each item while having the gall to ask me, “If I need help?”
I said, “No,” in the hopes that she’ll not only leave my personal space but see that I am not here to steal Glade plugins or Febreeze.
“I can see you know what you’re doing,” she says. Still in my personal space. She NEVER moved even after I was done, I had to walk around her to leave.
It was then I realized what she was doing.
I made two critical mistakes that morning but to tell you those mistakes I need to back up to the beginning.
When my husband drove our extra car out to Colorado, I packed up a bunch of things that I thought we would need in our first few weeks out there just in case the Pod doesn’t arrive on time. Smart I tell ya, S.M.R.T (to quote Homer Simpson). In one of those boxes was my traditional shopping while black purse AND my wellies which would have been nice to have with all the rain. But the latter has nothing to do with the story.
The purse I left myself with is my travel purse. It’s big enough to carry three bottles of water, my wallet, keys, and phone.
It was also pretty hectic around the house that morning. My entire routine was thrown off because Mr. Meepers (our cat) had a UTI, was bleeding out the coolie, and needed to go to the Veterinarian. My daughter was nervous about taking her first standardized test, and I had to walk them to the bus stop because, one car. I barely had enough time to shower, and when I got out, I threw on some sweats and took them to the bus stop.
Back home the smell of burnt sausage had permeated every pore of the house so that by the time I arrived back home, it STUNK. When the husband got home with the car, I jumped into it and headed over to the Walmart for Febreeze.
I never noticed that I was simultaneously breaking two of the rules of shopping while black.
Rule #1 Never go into a store wearing a hoodie.
Rule #2 Never go into a store with a purse big enough to carry more than your wallet and perhaps your phone.
But have you seen the size of phones these days?
I think even being able to have your purse hold your phone is a bit of a stretch.
So when the old girl saw me standing there clad in a hoodie and a bag big enough to fit her inside of it, it’s no wonder she came in for a closer look.
That’s when my husband stopped me and said, “I don’t know why you go there and what do expect from Walmart.”
I don’t agree.
I’ll still go back to my Neighborhood Market because it’s convenient.
I also know from having had almost thirty-nine years in this body that if I boycotted every store that had an employee that did me dirty, I would only be able to shop on Amazon. I do that mostly anyway, but it’s for convenience.
While businesses are made up of their employees, I do recognize the fact that their employees are not the culture of the company. A business doesn’t care if I’m white or black. All a business cares about is if I have dollars in my pocket and that I’m willing to spend it there.
I stopped going to Starbucks, not because of the “Philadelphia Incident,” that was their employee, not Starbucks. I stopped going to Starbucks because their coffee isn’t organic and is full of pesticides. I like coffee as much as the next person, but cancer, not so much.
We need to realize that for as much as businesses try to screen employees, there isn’t a screen for bigotry. As long as people keep being non-homogeneous, there’s always going to be people that dislike them for their lack of being like the rest of the group.
It’s doesn’t matter if they’re racist, sexist, ageist, or homophobic. Whatever they are, they are going to bring that to work with them, and it doesn’t matter how much “Racial Bias Training” they have, it isn’t going to change their embedded thought patterns. Especially, once their shift is over, and they return to the communities that reinforce their way of thinking.
So why did I write this post?
Because it’s just a part of my life and that’s what we all do on here, we share parts of our lives. We write eloquently about heartbreak and unrequited love. We write words of encouragement by illustrating how we came through a dark time in our lives. We write to show one another we are not alone in our experience.
But this was just a rant, and I’m done now.
Originally published on Medium 5/23/2018