A few weeks ago I was browsing the aisles of Target, just minding my business. I can’t remember what exactly I was looking for, but I was rummaging through the clothing section. My shopping partner was a few feet away from me looking at the purses and hats. As I was lost in my thoughts, I felt a woman tap me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me miss, do you know if there are any more of these coats in the back?” a random white woman asked me.
I turned around and looked at her. And gave her the biggest sigh ever, before I replied, “I do not work here”. She looked at me and then scurried off.
I walked over to my friend and told him about the incident. I also mentioned the other times random white people have approached me asking for help as if I work in the various stores I patronize. My friend then pointed at my red shirt that I was wearing. That’s when it dawned on me. In this particular instance, maybe I wasn’t confused for the “help” because I was black, but because I was wearing the typical red Target-looking shirt.
Ok, so white lady won that time.
But I couldn’t help but to think about all of the other times rando white people have approached me in stores asking for help. But maybe they also approach white people and I just don’t know it? When you’re so used to dealing with racism, whether subtle or in your face, sometimes your defenses can be up, and the situation may not be racial at all.
For example, another shopping incident involved my sister and my baby niece. A random white woman approached my sister and attempted to compliment the baby.
“Aww, she reminds me of a Monchichi,” the lady said.
Now my sister, not knowing what a Monchichi was, tells the woman just that, but also said thank you and walked away. My sister then gets home and googles “Monchichi”. She then IM’d me and told me the story.
“Did this b*tch just call my baby a monkey? That’s racist!” she wrote.
See, apparently even though we grew up in the same house, we didn’t watch the same cartoons as kids. I told her well that I doubt she called her baby a monkey. She probably thought a Monchichi was cute, and that my niece looked like one.
Truth be told, after a few minutes of IM’ing, my sister wrote back,
“Well, I guess she does favor one a bit”.
But the funny thing with mistaking things for racism when they’re not, is that there’s no mistaking the lack of tact people have. My grandmother always told me that some white people (hold your seats, here’s a generalization) have no tact what-so-ever. Technically that statement in its own, could be considered problematic, but I have yet to hear another black person say, “all black people look a like”. I also doubt a black person would dare compare a black baby to a Monchichi.
But who am I fooling, sometimes shit is just what is it, racism. With a capital “R”. But it’s up to the person on how they react to individual situations.