How Racism and Prejudice Still Saved Me $500.
Written by Andrew Brock for Goombay Tally Blog | www.goombaytally.com | Also Visit “Goombay Tally Blog” on Facebook | Racism in America
Let me be clear from the very beginning: There are absolutely no “winners” when referencing racism, bigotry, sexism, or prejudice in this country. More directly, there is no financial, moral, social, or intellectual advantage to be gained by anyone in the mist of a racist incident. The victim is belittled, marginalized, and demoralized when he or she is denigrated during an exchange. Conversely, the offender reveals their “true soul” and moral–even intellectual weaknesses during the engagement. For all the world to see.
O.K., yes…if a person’s civil rights are illegally infringed upon and the matter advances its way into the judicial arena, there indeed may be some form of financial compensation for the victim. But from a universal perspective…there is no “win”… just a person with a healthier bank account due to human ignorance. The court decision ultimately doesn’t compel the racist to love his fellow man…if anything, he or she is probably more of a racist after the legal ruling.
Again, the universe loses.
Yes, even in a nation that elected and re-elected a black President, we all know that racism is not only alive and well in America, but may indeed be gathering steady momentum.
Over the years, numerous journalists, social science specialists, and psychologists have successfully demonstrated the prevalence of racism and prejudice (specifically) in the marketplace and in the retail world as they designed social experiments that involved a black student who was initially prepped by the research teams and then sent into a clothing store as a fake shopper to pretend she is looking for an article of clothing. Subsequently, in many of these studies, you would see one, some, or all of the following reactions from the retail store employees:
- The fake (black) shopper was completely ignored by the store employees while shopping for clothes until they eventually left.
- The shopper was actually followed around the store by the employees as if they were suspected of stealing merchandise.
- Employees were noticeably curt with the shopper when they had a question about the price, size, or color of an article of clothing.
- If a purchase was made and the shopper paid with a check or credit card…cashiers frequently demanded to see some form identification. Mind you, in a world of identity theft and cyber crimes, not a bad thing right? But I think you know what’s going on right?
As you anticipated, the next step in the social experiment was to send in the fake white shopper to the same clothing store to see if there was a notable difference in how they treated her compared to the black shopper who strategically exited the store minutes earlier. Repeating the scenario in numerous shops, in most cases, the white shoppers had a completely different experience than their black counterparts. For example, the employees were generally more attentive to the white shoppers. They often displayed a more outgoing or upbeat demeanor when engaging the white shopper and were demonstrably more talkative and social with the white shoppers than with the black shoppers.
And yes…as you guessed, the white shoppers were scrutinized far less than the black employees were at the point of sale when they presented either a check or credit card. Yep, I know. Not earth shattering news here. Many of us have experienced the same thing, multiple times over.
So back to the article tagline…how did “racism” still save me $500? I’ll explain.
Like roughly 390,000 other black men in the United States today, I am married to a white spouse. Now during that time, interracial couples were definitely a semi-rare site in the state where we lived, however, we never really had any negative experiences to that point either. Many years ago, we noticed that our well-worn and abused television was on its last leg, so we decided to spend a little extra cash and purchase our first big screen television as a couple. Besides, our current television was a surviving artifact from my single years and honestly, I think she just wanted it out of the house.
We both decided on a certain electronics and appliances store that we wanted to target for our purchase, but because our work schedules were staggered, we were unable to meet up at the same time to make a collective decision on which television we both desired. So the new strategy was basically to “divide and conquer.” So both of us would visit the store independently and on the same day and compare notes (and prices) later at home. Through casual conversation, we both knew what each other was looking for in a big screen so the plan was set. I would visit the store first to take a look at which one I liked, and prioritized them based on features and affordability. My wife would stop by the store roughly three hours later and duplicate the process. Hey, wait a minute…does that scenario sound familiar?
After leaving work on our dedicated shopping day, I remember walking through the front door of the electronics store and immediately heading toward the television section to begin my research. Being a huge NFL fan, I’d been waiting a long time to purchase a decent television to watch the games…more specifically, my Dallas Cowboys. After looking at three televisions that had some potential, I began to realize a few things: not one salesperson in the store (and there were many) ever asked me if I had any questions or if they could assist me in any way. In fact, two of the employees never even looked up from their computers or reading material as I walked past them to get to the televisions.
Maybe they were all busy or tied up in administrative work today right? That possibility was soon shattered as I saw in my peripheral that a white customer walked to an adjacent big screen television and I observed one of the employees literally hop up and walk past me to ask the other customer if he had any questions.
Not one salesperson in the store (and there were many) ever asked me if I had any questions or if they could assist me in any way. In fact, two of the employees never even looked up from their computers or reading material as I walked past them to get to the televisions.
Not really wanting to make a big deal out the blatant snub, I looked at a few more televisions, took a few more comparative notes and finally asked one of the employees, who immediately looked like I was bothering him if my favorite big screen television was still on sale. He coldly answered no and that the sale ended yesterday…something about forgetting to remove the tag. End of conversation. I stuffed my notes into my back pocket and walked out.
Three hours later, my wife’s experience was patently different than mine.
When I finally met up with my wife at home following her visit to the electronics store, I asked her sarcastically, “How did it go?” With an excited and chipper voice she showed me her top television choice–ironically, and surprisingly, her number one big screen television pick was the exact same as mine. Over time, I’ve come to realized that married couples rarely agree on the same furniture style or electronics selections. This time we did.
“But wait…there’s more,” my wife said, sounding a little like an overly-excited infomercial spokeswomen. “If we purchased the television today, the manager said he would take $500 off the purchasing price and deliver it to us for free!” she continued. Now up to that point, I decided not to tell my wife about my experience at the electronics store–but now I was furious. Well, not too furious…we were getting a great deal mind you.
“Are you kidding me,” I said. “I walk in the store earlier and could barely get anyone’s attention; and you were able to get a deal, plus free shipping just for giggles?” I continued.
“Well, yeah…” my wife said looking sheepishly down at her notes now. “In fact, once I walked in the door, the manager greeted me and asked why I was in the store today…he was really nice,” my wife further explained. I continued to explain to my wife my experience there and she quickly realized what just happened. I could see that my wife was initially having a hard time understanding why I wouldn’t be treated the same as she would; but again, I guess that’s one of the reasons why I married her…she truly didn’t care about skin color or racial differences. But unfortunately in modern America, there are still those who not only see the differences, but despise them.
My wife further explained that knowing the television specifications, dimensions, and features that I was looking for in our purchase, she already sealed the deal with the manager and purchased the television at the store so we could take advantage of the reduced rate…in fact, they would be delivering it that night.
So at the end of the day, I felt ecstatic that I finally got the big screen television that I really wanted, and at a phenomenal price to boot; but I was also burning up inside.
Yep, I get it. Some may say that salesmen naturally give pretty, young, white women (or just women in general) more attention than men; regardless of race…but I knew in my heart of hearts that it was more than that. It was the “recognizable” age old racial invisibility and social animus that I’ve seen many times before. Once you experience it once, you can identify it forever.
So that’s the story of how racism still saved me $500 on our first big screen television. Am I still bitter? Yes, being treated like a second-class citizen always stings. Believe me, I appreciate the struggles of those who came before me even more so. But to put this all in perspective: America has come a”mighty long way” in terms of race relations, however, there will always be racism on this beautiful blue planet. Unfortunately, it is a resilient virus that will never fully be eradicated. You pray that its prevalence becomes marginalized over time but it will always be there in some form or fashion as societies continue to weave, melt, and clash.
Personally, I see racism and bigotry as a “karmic boomerang.” Once you launch it into the universe at another human being, it will come back to you eventually with a demand for recompense. Sometimes that restitution will be financial, sometimes it will be in the form of public reprimand and rebuke, but undoubtedly…and at a minimum, it will always require a small portion of your soul as payment.
Finally, instead of harboring ill feelings toward the electronics shop, I decided it would be a wonderful idea to write the store and manager a heartfelt thank you card for such a great deal on the flat screen television. Oh by the way, just to be cute, my wife included a picture of me and her standing in front of our new big screen television…cheesy smiles included.
Written by Andrew Brock for Goombay Tally Blog