Now tell me, is this the face of a shoplifter?
* Trigger warning *
This post contains some emotionally-charged thoughts and feelings, but this is my blog so it’s allowed…
So, let’s talk about that time I was racially profiled. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced overt and direct prejudice (caveat: that I am aware of). It’s been a long time since I’ve been followed around a shop. But it happened again a couple of nights ago. Let’s set some context. As I walked into the shop, a pair of thieving toe rags (one Black guy, one white guy) were being ushered out of the shop, amidst much hollering and protestations of innocence. I tried to mind my business. However, it soon became apparent that the security guard just happened to be at the end of every aisle that I happened to walk down. At one point, I even caught him doing a comedy, covert lean round the corner. I was annoyed. I wasn’t there with the intention of shoplifting. But, I was made to feel like I was. And when someone gets into my feelings, it’s not good 😔
Anyway, I tried to ignore him and focus on the fact that I had a free £50 voucher to spend, but, my happy place thoughts were soon disturbed by a gentleman who suddenly started shouting at the security guard. “Why are you following me?! Everywhere I look, you’re there! I’m not here to steal! If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it!” The gentleman, an older, Black, Caribbean man, was very well-dressed and very articulate and very eloquent. He proceeded to enter into what could easily have been a TED Talk on the historical and cultural reasons why Black people have been maligned by society to such an extent that a South-Asian man of the same complexion would instinctively suspect him to be a shoplifter. I listened, proudly, with my hand on a tin of baked beans, as the older gentleman verbally took down the security guard (whose turn it was to now protest his own innocence), then felt ashamed of myself that I hadn’t confronted him while he was following me around the shop 😔
The older gentleman paid for his goods and left the shop. I dragged my basket to the counter, paid and left, giving the security guard evils as I walked past him at the door. He looked down at his feet, sheepishly.
Why am I telling you this? I guess I just want to let you know that this is my reality. Beyond the Instagram meet ups and the wannabe fashion blogger status and the shit my kid says, this is the stuff that I have to deal with on a daily basis. This is the kind of stuff that so many of us have to deal with on a daily basis.
I guess I just wanted to share my outrage in a week when my girl, Yvadney, @mumsthatslay was told that a shoot concept featuring a young, Black boy was too “urban” (whatever that means) purely because the child was Black.
I guess I just wanted to share my outrage in a week when Aunty Karen, @reddskinuk, shared that she had to practically beg for a seat on a bus after donating blood and feeling faint, but was still forced to stand, until an older, Black woman gave up her seat for her.
I wanted to share my outrage at the fact that my 6 year old has to concern herself with the colour of her skin and the texture of her hair and how that makes her different from her classmates, because her classmates will point it out, usually in innocence, that she is Black and that she smells of chocolate (that’ll be the cocoa butter, darlings), while the biggest deal that the rest of her class typically has to worry about is losing the Happy Meal toy that they brought in to show their mates (which is as it should be, btw).
I wanted to share my outrage at the fact that my children’s school is happy to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by allowing children (of any heritage) to wear something green – a lovely gesture, yes. Yet, the school finds celebrating or even acknowledging Black History Month problematic, because it could be interpreted as divisive *rolls eyes out of head and onto the floor*
I wanted to share my outrage that Black people are over 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts here in the UK, despite the fact that there is typically only a 23% success rate leading to arrest after the search*. And let’s not even start talking about the prosecution vs conviction rates for Black people (apart from saying that disproportionately higher numbers are prosecuted than convicted*, which leads to a number of questions being asked about evidence, or lack thereof, and institutionalised racism).
I feel like I’m rambling. I don’t know what else to say. But, I do know that these macro and micro aggressions are real. The humiliation I felt was real. The anger and frustration that the gentleman in the shop felt was real. These things are all very real. These emotions are powerful and having to deal with them regularly is draining.
And yet, this is life for so many. This is my life.
But, as a friend keeps reminding me, joy over struggle. I’ll make sure my next blog post is pure joy.
*Statistics taken from Ministry of Justice report “Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2016”, published in Nov 2017