Excuse me, sir?
I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave the store.
Why? What did I do?
Nothing. We’d just feel better if you left.
YOU would feel better?
You’re making some of the other shoppers nervous. Please, don’t make me call the head of security.
Yesterday I talked about how my friend CK got arrested for being a black guy who got mugged by three white guys. (I Was Doing Okay Until That Guy Hit Me With An Axe Handle.) It wasn’t a surprise to CK. I talked about the fact that we were best friends. And yet, there were times where I had no idea what he was experiencing.
We worked for Microsoft in downtown Bellevue in a beautiful building across the street from a high end shopping mall. One of the anchor stores in this mall was Nordstroms, and this was the store that CK was asked to leave.
It was about 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. I know this because Wednesday was the day we both worked. The two of us were covering the swing shift. He had Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I had Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We both worked Wednesday.
CK continued with his story.
They formed a ring around me. They were apparently protecting the shoppers from the big bad black man.
How do you know it was because you were black?
CK just looked at me. And it wasn’t in a good way.
I just mean it could have been something you were wearing.
Hooded sweatshirt. Hood up, hands in the pockets.
That might have had something to do with it.
That’s not the point. The point was that I was just killing time waiting for my shift to start. I had every right to be in that store. So, they threatened to call the head of security. I said “Go ahead. In fact, I want you to tell the head of security that CK wants to see him down here. Right now!”
And they stationed the clerks around you?
Yeah. But, no females clerks. I stood there for about ten minutes. Finally here comes the head of security. He was huge. I mean, I’m 6’5″ and he was easily as big as I am.
Black guy or white guy?
That earned another look.
As he got closer he kind of rushed at me. I of course rushed at him too. And all the clerks froze. They were like, “They’re gonna fight!”
Well, did you get in a fight?
No. Of course not. I gave him a big hug. I’d played ball with him at Seattle University. We’ve been friends for years.
Wait, so you knew he was working there the whole time?
Absolutely. But, we sure scared those clerks.
Seattle is known as a multiracial city. While I lived in King County, the county where Seattle, and Redmond and Bellevue are located, the King County Executive for a time was an Asian guy named Gary Locke. He was later elected governor of Washington State. After him it was a black guy named Ron Sims. The city was not particular racist. And yet, these types of experiences happened to CK on a fairly regular basis.
Even after being friends for years, I was still surprised by things that CK would notice and I wouldn’t. He pointed it out to me one time.
I’m surprised that you still get treated like this.
No, Rodney, you just don’t know what to look for.
What do you mean?
You’ve been there when store clerks have been racist.
I don’t remember that.
Okay, next time we both go into some place like Nordstroms pay attention to which one of us the clerk approaches first.
Are you saying they approach me first?
Just watch next time.
Doesn’t that bother you?
It bothered me a lot. Especially the next time we walked into Nordstroms.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.
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