Monday, May 10, 2010

Candid Camera: Shopping While Black -

So while over at I came across a piece on “shopping while black.” Basically cameras recorded black actors posed as shoppers being treated unfairly. Real-life clerks said things like “You people shoplift” and followed the actors and the people nearby where unfazed by the blatant discrimination. They just continued on with their purchases without a peep. What if it were you being degraded or what if you overheard the offense? What would you do?

I shop a lot and know the difference between good customer service and surveillance. I have to admit though I am not always as vigilant about recognizing discrimination and acting on it. Sometimes if I’m shopping I’m in my own little world or on a mission to find a hot new addition for my closet and I am not always aware of what’s going on around me which I know I have to work on. But when I do notice someone is watching me depending on my mood I just walk out, put whatever I have in my hands down where I stood and leave. Sometimes if I really want the item and I’ve checked other places I’ll buy it, tell the salesperson how I feel, throw in a degrading jab or two without raising my voice and then ask for the manager. I used to just leave, but I sometimes think “This ain’t her store. She can’t make me leave.”

Crazy thing is I experience this behavior (i.e. following, watching, too much attention or no attention) from black folks too. Sometimes they are the worst. I’ll never forget when I first moved to the DMV area and I got my first paycheck and ventured to Fashion Center Mall at Pentagon City. I went to Sephora and no one said “Boo,” but when I white woman walked in she received greetings and offers of assistance. I was followed in Banana Republic and J.Crew. These were my favorite places to shop online. (In Detroit we didn’t have too many retails store you’d have to drive way out to go shopping.) The only store that I felt fine in was United Colors of Benetton of all places. The Ethiopian girl didn’t want to help me, but the white guy picked out a fab outfit for me and referred a tailor for the pants. That day I felt befuddled, taken aback and a little disheartened. You expect this from white people, but to be profiled by your own people? I had never been treated this way and this gave birth to my hardened DMV exterior.

I’ve never heard a racial slur or the term “you people”, but I’m guessing if I did I’d hit the roof. Subtle racism is the norm sadly, but blatant racism requires action immediately and the offender must be punished. Judging from prior experience I’d calmly call the sales person every name, but a child of God, reminded her that “we run this….country (Obama), game (Venus), company (Ursula), industry (Beyonce)… and the new Negro is here to get in her face, call her boss and gasp, write a letter!

Maybe I’m not reacting enough, but at least I do something, right? See the full article here.