WHO ELSE WANTS RACIAL PROFILING TO END?
My Story and How It Inspired Me
I was going “back to school shopping” with my mom and sister on a blistering hot summer day in 2011. During this shopping trip, I wandered into Dick’s Sporting Goods in Garland, TX in order to buy new volleyball equipment for my upcoming season.
When I entered the store I expected to find my things quickly, receive great customer service via the cashier and leave. I did not, however, expect to be racially profiled by the manager in charge. I did not expect to experience marketplace discrimination and consumer racism at the age of 18. That summer I did not expected to encounter the phrase “shopping while black.”
Let me piece together the story for you.
It started off like another other trip to a retail store. I gathered all the items I wanted to and headed to the dressing room with my mom and sister. We were in Dick’s dressing room for 20 – 30 minutes before I heard a loud pound on the door. Startled and confused, my mom and I looked at each other before reaching for the door. I barely got all of my clothes on before the door swung wide open to reveal a male, red headed manager.
Before we asked why he was knocking, he abruptly said, “I need for you all to leave.”
My mom said in response, “Why?”
“I just want you to leave,” said the manager.
My mom yelled, “BUT WHY?!”
“You are exhibiting suspicious behavior. I think you are a shoplifter,” said the manager.
In this moment, I remember being extremely mystified because we were not exhibiting any suspicious behaviors! My family and I were acting like typical customers by trying on items before purchasing. Thus, I didn’t really understand why the manager was kicking us out. Clearly, I was not aware of the gravity of the situation. CLEARLY I was not cognizant of the fact that I was experiencing racial profiling.
For whatever reason, I didn’t think that racial profiling would happen to me. I lived in suburbia, I went to a private high school, and society classified me as a young adult from the upper middle class. I identified my Dick’s experience as an encounter with racial profiling when my mom sat me down to talk about the situation and why I should never forget it.
While 2011 was a long time ago, I’ve kept that day in my internal hard drive because it changed my perspective on life.
Even though my verbal encounter with racism may seem insignificant, it was a pivotal point in my life because it made me realize that experiences with racism are byproducts of global inequality and our exploitative nature as human beings. This “ah-ha” moment for me led me to study International Studies and become invest in social justice issues. It has led me to write a senior thesis that was centered on the idea of global oppression. It has, also, given me a voice that sheds light upon prejudices that are placed upon my African American existence.
I hope that sharing my experience with racial profiling opens up a dialogue about how actions driven by racism have limited the power of public policy and civic peace. Racism and prejudices, frankly, affect everything. Prejudices are practically inescapable because they are systematically embedded in our daily lives, the government, educational systems and etcetera. What makes them inescapable is the fact that every human being grows up with biases.
The house you were raised in, the country you call home and the time period you were born in are all environments that precondition your mind to like certain things and hate others. There is nothing wrong with having biases because it shapes who you are as a person and contributes to your worldview. What is important to know about biases is not why but how they are constructed into counter-hegemonic or hegemonic ideologies for political and social gain. If we learn “how,” we will begin to challenge how identities are constructed through biases and how those constructions make certain racist actions possible and acceptable.
Question: Have you seen or experienced racial profiling? What do you do? How did you feel? Please comment and share this post!
Until Next Time,
"Your life is happening now. Make it amazing!"