i‘m grateful tonite, to God, and to the loc’d sista working at Pier 1 Imports who gave me the benefit of the doubt..
so i’m out shopping for things for my new condo.. i stop by pier 1.. we all know its mad expensive, but they’ve got clearance, and i can get ideas!
i walk in, with my locs up, jacket on, in a chill mood looking for inspiration.. as i move through the space, i stop in the middle of the store to get my bearing and see where things are. this spot where i stop happens to be near the registers.
i look a moment longer, half expecting an associate to ask if i need help, mostly just want to see my first move.
an older white woman speaks at me from a distance, asking if i need help looking for anything. i respond, “no, just looking around right now”
(as i entered the store, i immediately noticed to my right, in the corner, a lady with thick locs down past her waist was working, i’d planned to connect with her at some point)
so i move on! start looking at things that peak my interest around the store for maybe 8 minutes. a moment later, the black woman with locs randomly approaches me, and casually asks me whether i’m in school around here or not.. i answer unfazed.. and then she goes into a spiel…
the white woman, thinks i’m here scoping the cash registers to rob the place.
and i can feel the shame (as the employee), disgust and compassion (as an african-american woman) the lady with locs has for me. she goes through the motions asking what i’m up to, and prepares herself for me to lose it! KNOWING the BS that is happening in her store. she’s the manager, so SHE has to now handle the situation. the situation where this little old white woman, not only presumed me to be acting criminally, did not engage me as a normal customer, did not give me the benefit of the doubt that i, very well may be a normal shopper. she actually called, the police.
she called the police.
the black woman tells me she called the police! she lets me know that as manager, she will deal with the cops when they come. just act normally, don’t be alarmed when they come.
you guys already know, i’m quite the mild mannered man. so i didn’t freak. i was thoroughly surprised, outraged… livid… disgusted.. oh, so many other emotions, but i kept my cool. and deftly made efforts to make eye contact with the woman. several times i did, and she couldn’t. finally she asked if i wanted to put down on the counter what i was carrying.. (those things i’m sure she suspected i’d steal…
i finish my shopping, my girl checks me out, and we chat about hair, family, holidays and the like.. and as i leave, i thank her. for being there. for respecting me. for expecting GREATNESS of me. for not doubting my humanity. for connecting with me.
i left and called my parents, and as we talked, i realized something.
if the black woman, had not been there, to reach me. only God knows how that situation would have turned out. well. we do know. we’ve seen it play out too many times in the media over the past 24 months. it was then i felt that much closer to the young men who have lost their lives, living while black.