A bitch used to live in Dallas Texas, where I was in sales. I worked for a firm that sold broadcast radio nationally. It was a high-pressure job and our team often took lunch-based excursions to balance out the stress.
Some background – my boss and I often discussed racism in and outside of the workplace. I worked on a lot of marketing campaigns for urban (translation – black) radio stations, so the topic came up from time to time. My boss, like a lot of people, was one to give folks the benefit of the doubt when it came to covert racism…and this bitch was one to call shit the shit that it is, covert or overt or someplace in the middle.
One day we went to Northpark Mall, which houses several high-end stores including Neiman Marcus. We popped from store to store, grabbed a nice lunch (chicken Caesar salads, sweet tea and strawberries with cream…yum!) and then went to Neimans. At the time, Neiman Marcus was the only store in town that sold the makeup I wore and that makeup was really the only thing I could afford at Neiman Marcus. I broke away from our crew to go to the makeup counter, saying that I’d meet up with them in the shoe department after I scored some lipstick.
Needless to say, I was waiting at the makeup counter for sometime…a long time…long enough for my co-workers to go through the shoe department, try on several pairs of shoes, wander through handbags and then wonder what the fuck happened to my ass.
What happened was that the woman working the counter was indulging in a public display of not seeing the black woman who had yet to be waited on.
I made eye contact with her…and watched as she left her station to go to another station to wait on folks there. I continued to observe her as she returned to her station, went to the back storage area and then left again without asking me if I needed help. The place wasn’t exactly busy…but the woman managed to help several people who came over after me.
When my co-workers walked up and asked me what was taking so long I explained the situation calmly…this wasn’t my first time at the dance…and watched the skepticism leap into my bosses eyes. It stayed there until the woman who apparently didn’t see my black ass waiting at the counter for damn near 30 minutes came over and, instead of asking me if I needed help, asked my boss how she could help her.
And my boss went from skeptical to fired up in the blink of an eye.
She went off.
I stood back in shock, as she demanded to see the manager and scolded the woman for her public display of not seeing the black woman waiting at the counter. Suffice it to say, I got a store credit and apology and everyone was soooo sorry that I had to wait but…wait for it… “She didn’t see you waiting there and you should have said something sooner!!!”
My boss vented and ranted about it on the drive back…at the office throughout the remainder of the day…and during our meeting the next day.
She was shocked.
She was offended.
She couldn’t believe how calm I was.
And, after I explained to her that if I got fired up over every incident I’d cease to function, I then explained that I was going to address it and would have addressed it…but she fired up so fast I never got a chance.
That incident remains one of those moments when I got to see how other people experience the racism visited upon we people of color. There is often denial and skepticism…that shit can open a serious rift, ‘cause nothing pisses a body off more than being told you are over-reacting to something that you know quite well but they know little about. I’ll confess that half the reason I didn’t just walk away from that makeup counter was because I knew that I’d have to explain why I didn’t get the makeup and then my boss would have made some lame ass excuse for why I hadn’t been waited on and then I’d get pissed at her and…well, yeah.
But sometimes…when an incident like that happens…sometimes there is a realization like the one my boss had. A realization that racism does happen and it isn't always blatant and obvious, complete with hoods and Confederate flags.
There is a reason I don’t automatically give folks the benefit of the doubt...
...just as there is a reason why my boss did and probably still does.
Oh, and I moved on to MAC ‘cause they know how to treat a bitch and they have fantabulous lipstick.