Just because I am black?

I had always known that there is racism, but it was an issue that did not affect me personally.  This innocence continued until I lived in other countries.  Man, were things different and was I shocked!

I will share one story where I was targeted.  I wanted to buy a particular pair of pants and I went to the store that sold the pants in Washington, DC.  There was a black security guard standing outside the store  and as I walked in, I noticed that he had started following me.  I looked around and there were only white customers in the store.

I had experienced this before but wanted to make sure that I was not being paranoid, so I took several unexpected turns around the store.  The guard was right behind me at every turn and I concluded that he thought I would steal something.  I noted that the white customers were free to roam around the store without being followed.

I left the store hurt, not just because of what had happened, but more so because he was a black person suspecting me, a fellow black.  What if a white customer had noticed this? Would she have not come to the conclusion that blacks were indeed thieves if they could not trust each other?

There are other stories I could share, but suffice it to say that racism hurts, racism is humiliating and racism is an all round destroyer.  I am not a thief or any sort of criminal so why was I targeted, especially by a fellow black?

I got to thinking as why the guard had targeted me and the following questions came up me:

a)  Was it store policy to targeted blacks?

b)  Did the guard have experience in blacks being thieves in comparison to whites?

c)  Did I look as if I could not afford products from the shop?

d)  Did I look like a thief?

e)  Did the guard follow a system of shadowing a random person coming into the store and I happened to be the one at that particular time?

I have been targeted many times before because of my race (and I know this will happen again) and so I wonder how it feels to be part of a race that is ‘above’  suspicion.  I could have confronted the guard but I decided to walk away and take my hard earned money elsewhere.

Have you been discriminated against before because of your race?  What did you do in the circumstances?

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26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. leggypeggy
    Jan 13, 2015 @ 09:54:05

    Much (dare I say most) of America still has a lot to learn about living together regardless of race, gender, religion and more. I have travelled extensively worldwide and have, on occasion, been one of the first white persons that an African black community has ever seen (especially in Nigeria and The Sudan). I have only ever been treated with kindness and respect. I continue to be shocked and dismayed that people of the USA cannot figure out the importance of treating everyone equally. Many pretend to follow the Golden Rule. Ha!
    I assume you now live in Europe and hope there are fewer negative encounters.

    Reply

  2. Sunny
    Jan 10, 2015 @ 15:32:23

    .y blogsite is Retired In NYC, retiredinnyc.com.

    Reply

  3. Sunny
    Jan 10, 2015 @ 00:55:18

    I must agree with Kay. When I was younger, a work colleague was the daughter of a mafioso. Although she chose to live her life “legally,” she would tell me of things she had seen. One of them was how very easy it was for white criminals to shoplift. Security guards in stores did not look at them suspiciously, and they got away with a tremendous amount.

    I am ashamed that people of “my race,” including family members, embrace such disgusting beliefs. They perpetuate such misery in the world.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 10, 2015 @ 14:43:29

      Targeting people because of their race is the store’s loss because the person will take their money elsewhere, while some members of the unsuspected race help themselves to products. There has to be a middle ground somewhere, but are people willing to come to it?

      PS/: I tried looking at your blog but there was an error message that it was not found.

      Reply

  4. jedib
    Jan 09, 2015 @ 14:42:28

    What it feels like to be part of a race that’s above suspicion? Pretty comfortable, even though I am far from being wealthy (just scraping by, in fact). And even though it’s unfair, many people of the privileged white majority are not interested in changing anything about this status quo, as it’s an unfairness in our favor after all.

    It also feels incredibly enraging, because I honestly can’t wrap my mind around that fact that despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (and these are not new insights), people seem to choose to believe that physiological features are in some magical way connected to character or some other essence of a person. Which century do we live in again? The 19th?!

    It also feels infuriating from a very personal perspective, as my husband is black, and I experience these little acts of racism with him in our daily lives. This is of course different than being affected personally, but even though I knew about racism in general, I now have a pretty good idea of its mundane manifestations.

    That’s a short answer to your question. Sorry you had to have this experience.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 09, 2015 @ 16:59:26

      I appreciate your honest answer. Even though you are not black, I can understand the pain you also go through because of your loved one. Like you say, we are in a new century but it seems like we packed our racism and brought it along into the brand spanking new millennium. It will take a lot of education for people to change, but when will it happen?

      Reply

  5. Michelle
    Jan 08, 2015 @ 15:17:37

    Sorry to here about your experience. If I were you I probably would have turned around and asked him if there was a problem! Do you find any problems being black in Vienna?

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 09, 2015 @ 16:34:49

      This was not the first time this had happened and I usually just let it go because it is tiring to confront people all the time. I only do so if I need to. One time, a friend and I hired a taxi at about 2.00 am in Washington, DC. On our way, I had to shout at the taxi driver because of his hostility and rudeness and yet we were giving him business. His response was that he thought we were African American and in his experience, they were violent. As a result, the driver wanted to show us from the get-go that he was tough and could take us on. I did not agree with his assumptions because that was being racist – why paint a people with one stroke of a brush?

      I have not been aware of racism here in Vienna though I have heard of stories. However, I was in the city centre one day and a young Caucasian man walking past me said “I did not know that there are so many ‘Ns’ in Vienna.” As far as I am concerned, it would have been fine for him to be surprised at the number of blacks in Vienna (I have been to places where I am literally the only black), but using the ‘N’ word connoted racism.

      Reply

  6. The Sicilian Housewife
    Jan 08, 2015 @ 14:53:44

    It’s so disappointing when otherwise intelligent people are racist – they just deprive themselves of the chance to learn more about the world from people different from themselves.
    I have experienced a lot of xenophobia in Sicily – I cannot call it racism as Sicilians are white like me, but the behaviour and tiny-minded mentality is the same: they don’t want to be friendly and don’t respect me, because I am just a bit different from them.
    I never had any idea how much racism there is in my own country, though, until I spent some time out and about in England with my brother-in-law, who is Brazilian and mixed race. People in shops or pubs would be chatty and friendly to me then suddenly become frosty and tight-lipped as soon as he joined me: I can’t think of any other explanation than racism, since they treated him this way before he had even spoken to them!

    I do think racial integration in schools is the only real way to change things. I remember my parents sometimes saying racist things when I was a child but I made friends of different races at school, and corrected them. People really can change – my Mum adores her Brazilian son-in-law.

    Reply

  7. Pecora Nera
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 21:33:17

    This is so sad.
    There are too many bigoted people in the world

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 09, 2015 @ 16:41:36

      It is indeed sad, especially knowing that there are others who lost their lives because of others’ ignorance. Will the situation get better? Let us wait and see.

      Reply

  8. butimbeautiful
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 01:52:55

    Sorry that happened to you. No, it hasn’t happened to me, because I’m white. I have had black people upbraid me in public places for being white, a couple of times. I guess it’s understandable though – I don’t feel entitled to whinge about it (as a member of a privileged group).

    Reply

  9. Minuscule Moments
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 21:10:40

    That must be so hurtful, I imagine it would feel very upsetting. I have been in stores where the people look down on you as if to say you could not afford anything in here. Especially if you take kids into their space.
    I am hoping we as a generation of parents are raising the children all over this world to embrace diversity and other cultures and I know many young people who do. Hopefully mine can see we all fall from the same vine.

    Reply

  10. jesusknowsmyname
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 18:26:40

    When I was a little girl, perhaps around 5 years old or so (this would have been in the middle to late 1950’s when segregation laws were still in effect in the United States), I must have asked my mother something about the color of people’s skin. This is what she told me: “There are good ‘white’ people and there are bad white people. There are good ‘colored’ people and there are bad colored people.” I think that was the perfect answer over 50 years ago, and it still is a good answer today. But having come to know Christ as my Savior, what I believe is that when God created man and woman, the DNA of our many skin, hair, and eye colors were instantly programmed within us. We not only have different textures of hair, variations of skin hues, we have other physical differences that distinguish us from each other. One can observe many variations of skin color within ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. There may have been ancestors of either skin color in either ‘race’. The other day I happened to see the daughters of the musician Quincy Jones, and they looked ‘white’ to me. Their mother is Peggy Lipton, an actress, who is ‘white’. I noticed that Quincy Jones’ skin color is not very dark either. Perhaps he has ‘white’ genes in his ancestry. My point is that skin color means absolutely NOTHING… it is the human being we should look at, not their skin color. The only ‘race’ that exists is the human race (on some forms which request ‘race’, I have written ‘human’). I think earthriderjudyberman handled the ‘racist’ issue with her student expertly.

    What I am curious about is the decision for a person to call themselves ‘black’ when they are a mix of black and white. How do they decide which ‘group’ to identify with? Are people of darker skin color more apt to accept a person who is of mixed skin color (actually, we all are) than their lighter-skin counterparts? I have also noticed that in many cases the ‘blacks’ have a victim mentality suggesting that all whites are oppressing them and that whites ‘owe’ them… what??? We have laws of equality in this country. I have also noticed reverse racism from ‘blacks’. Why is it acceptable for blacks to call whites derogatory names and make fun of them, but whites will be lambasted for using a slur for blacks? What about black only organizations? Is the NAACP a racist organization? Why is ‘Jet’ magazine exclusively a ‘black’ magazine? What about ‘Miss Black America’… isn’t that a racist competition? The Miss America pageant features women of all ethnic backgrounds. When people stop making choices and assumptions based on skin color, then we will have ‘arrived’ so to speak, but that will not happen until people of all skin colors realize that we did not ‘evolve’ from a primordial ‘soup’ and evolve from monkeys over billions of years, and instead acknowledge that God created man and woman who are distinct and separate from each other, containing the genes of ALL SKIN COLORS, having physical abilities and functions that serve a specific purpose, yet are both of equal value in God’s eyes.

    In answer to some of your very insightful questions, I have been ‘discriminated’ against when I have entered high-end merchandise stores and the sales people have treated me rudely because my quality of clothing was not up to their standards–even though I had the money (and the credit card!) to purchase anything in that store. I have also worked in a retail store and had a woman claim that she was leaving the store without purchasing anything because she thought that I THOUGHT she was going to shoplift something. Her statement came as a complete shock to me as I was simply following my boss’ orders to be attentive to customers and ASK if they needed any help. (capitals for emphasis, not shouting). Years ago, I also worked in a retail store and was told to watch certain customers for theft—the customers at that particular moment were young, white teen girls, not well dressed, who were moving about in a suspicious manner in an area that contained small, easily hid items. So, were we discriminating against that type of customer at that particular time? I would say yes. Was that wrong? I would say it was a precautionary measure.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 06, 2015 @ 12:35:41

      You have raised very important points. A black taxi driver who was giving me a ride once pointed out an ‘evil’ white man. I asked the driver whether he had a falling out with the white person. The response was “I do not know him, but he is white so his ancestors mistreated my ancestors.” The driver became belligerent when I protested that it was not right to paint every white person evil, so I ended the discussion ended as all I wanted was to get to my destination.

      I know a young biracial girl who says she is brown. According to her, if you mix black (mother) and white (father), you get brown. Like you, I wonder how a biracial person decides which race they are.

      I believe that education should be given to all, especially children, so that we have more acceptance within and among races/skin tones.

      Reply

  11. peakperspective
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 18:13:22

    An eye-opening post, indeed, and I’m so sorry you’re writing it from first hand experience. It’s enormously frustrating that we’re still wrestling with this wretched issue and cannot seem to get beyond the surface of people.
    My 16 year old son just finished a month long intensive study at school where all day long the students simply studied and discussed (and argued) the topics of race and gender inequality. I cannot tell you how many fantastic discussions blossomed at home from that educational experience. I am truly grateful for the school giving time away from the traditional class time to focus on these issues.
    And thank you for keeping this topic front and center. We need to keep working on these problems and find solutions.
    I wish you a happy, healthy 2015!

    Reply

  12. LaVagabonde
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 16:21:23

    Sorry that happened to you. Many security guards choose that profession because they like to have power over people. Maybe he thought you were an easier target to imtimidate, not necessarily that you were more likely to steal something. I used to hate going into shops when I lived in Budapest. The guards were so obnoxious. Whenever I’d look right at them and glare, they’d focus on someone else. I always wanted to follow one of them around. Just to make them feel uncomfortable. I don’t understand why they’re there anyway. Shops already have cameras.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 17:41:59

      You have security guards that follow you in Budapest? I am planning on visiting Budapest some time this year, so I hope I do not experience that. Have a great 2015.

      Reply

  13. bill theunfetteredpreacher cote
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 12:42:41

    It hurts to read these stories, it is not fair or right. We’re surely not different, in the Lords light. We live what we’re taught, we need to know love. Someday we will, said the Lord above…..I am sorry for your experience. ..a poor witness, indeed.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 15:16:52

      I have learnt to say that “such is life” in such situations and move on. However, it is still difficult to experience this especially since there are people with worse experiences. Thanks for your kind words.

      Reply

  14. kay ~ lifestylevoices.com
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 03:37:05

    Imagine how many white thieves get away with their crimes while innocent black shoppers are being harassed like this. I’m sorry this kind of thing still exists, Zambian Lady. The only thing that comes close for me (and I realize it isn’t even anywhere close, really) is going into a fancy shmancy store and being followed because I’m wearing jeans, tee shirt, and sneakers, instead of whatever their fancy shmancy dress code is. I’ve just walked out and taken my money elsewhere too. Love your site, Zambian Lady. You touch on issues that are important and universal.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 11:13:34

      Being followed around is never a good feeling and I guess it’s the store’s loss when you take your money elsewhere. I hope you have a great 2015.

      Reply

    • julial213Julia
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 22:47:00

      Sorry also, that this happened to you. It does happen to me when as Kay said in a “fancy shmancy store” or also am ignored because I couldn’t afford anything there dressed as I was.. .even car shopping once for a Honda. We took our money elsewhere too. No where near your experience and we can only hope for change. I hope people all over the word would wake up, but especially in the United States.

      Reply

  15. earthriderjudyberman
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 01:37:36

    I’m sorry you had that experience, Zambian Lady. My daughter worked in a retail clothing store when she was teen and told me about a similar practice at that store. It is unfair to judge any one on the basis of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

    I heard that one of 7th-grade students called me a racist after I did something that he didn’t like. After school, we talked about it in a quiet way. I told him that I could understand if he said he hated me because I was strict … but not because I was white, a female, or a teacher. Those are labels that separate us. I’d rather be looked at as an individual and he agreed that was better. I hope the talk helped.

    Reply

    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 11:22:28

      It is unfortunate when we refuse to accept our own shortcomings and instead blame them on racism. You did well to have a chat with your student and I hope he became more objective in the way he looked at life. I had a friend who could never keep a job and always said her bosses were racist. I believed it the first time, but I started doubting her when she gave me that excuse over and over again every time she stopped work.

      Reply

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