For 5 Minutes I Was A Black Man

My life is privileged.  I’m not sure that I can disentangle and sufficiently trace all the streams of privilege that flow into my life.  I benefit from the advantages of my family, my country, my education, my race and my faith.  Perhaps its not the long list of things for which I should be grateful that is so astounding, rather, it’s my capacity for ingratitude.

Recently, a friend and I ventured to a store for a few late night purchases.  It was in another town and it’s very possible I carried myself like an outsider.  We elected the self-check out.  I went first, and then my friend used the same register.  A manager briskly walked toward and stopped my friend.  Nothing out of the ordinary-she simply wanted to ensure that his receipt matched the items he intended to leave with.  And that’s when it began…

She quickly noted that my items were not on his receipt.  She looked at me and then the receipt.  Back to me, then glancing down again.  Back and forth it went.  I decided to break the awkward silence.

Me:  Would you like to see my receipt?

Her:  That’s not necessary.  Unless you would like to show me your receipt.  Do you want to show me your receipt?

But she said it with such disdain.  She said it not only with her words, it was her face.  It was the simultaneous suspicion and condemnation in her eyes.  Not sure whether I should be amused or offended, I decided to play along.  I pulled out the receipt and respectfully handed it over.

Again we did the dance.  She looked at the receipt and looked at me.  Back to the receipt and up to me again.  Certain that I was up to no good and unable to prove my crime, with a pungent mix of disappointment and sarcasm she relented.

Ok.  You can go.

For whatever reason I was profiled.  Identified. Labeled.  Her false assumption would not be a victim of the facts.  If this scene isn’t an uncommon one for African Americans…Well, I’m privileged that it was only for 5 minutes that I was a black man.

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