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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
Uncle Smitty’s Christmas Story: An African-American Holiday Tale
Written by Andrew Brock | www.goombaytally.com | Goombay Tally Blog Writers | Fat Smitty
Growing up in North Philadelphia was an incredibly eclectic, challenging, complicated, yet wonderful part of my formative years as a black child.
The rich stories from the communities and neighborhoods percolated out of our motley, poor, rundown streets and helped craft and mold our adulthood resiliency, attitudes, work ethic, and general outlook and perspectives on life and living.
The holidays were especially memorable for my family and I in the “City of Brother Love.” The beautiful winter snow had a clever way of concealing the poverty, clutter, and ugliness that would often be painfully evident during any other season of the year.
I used to squint my eyes during snowstorms, and realize that for a few months, even North Philadelphia can be a beautiful, quaint, and postcard worthy place if you saw it from the right perspective and restrictive vantage point.
Today, as I sit here preparing for the Holidays with my family and watching my own kids decorating the Christmas tree and rattling off their memorized list of toys and electronics that Santa will be stuffing down the chimney, I stare at the flat screen T.V. in the family room and quietly reflect on the notable Christmas memories from my youth.
Vastly different from what my kids experienced today, but just different … not better.
The obligatory, A Christmas Story marathon is playing now. My kids occasionally pause from their tree decorating and general shenanigans just long enough to catch the funniest parts of the movie … “Flick” getting his tongue stuck on the flag pole during recess, Ralphie almost shooting his eye out, and the classic Chinese rendition of “Deck the Halls” and Chinese Turkey at Bo’ Ling Chop Suey Palace.
I glance out the window and marvel at how blessed my kids are today. My parents had very little money but still managed to make Christmas a magical time for all of us. In a funny way, I feel sad for my kids.
Sad because they will never experience a Christmas that seemed more genuine back in the day.
Much like a warm Norman Rockwell painting — just with poor happy black families in the frame instead.
Christmas is too commercialized and complicated these days. Unfortunately, this special day has been hijacked and carried away by the retail industry and basic human greed for decades.
Christmas has lost some of its authenticity I think.
My parents did the best that they could, with what they had. All the while, being happy that they had family and togetherness.
However, the one thing that each generation will TRULY be able to cherish and share equally, is the enjoyment of rich memorable Christmas stories that will inevitably and invariably unfold during this special time of the year.
I will never forget the craziest Christmas story from my youth. A story that involved my Uncle Smitty (formerly, Reginald Smith) on the streets of Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue) back in the ’70s.
Uncle Smitty was my father’s oldest brother who just returned from his second tour in Vietnam and probably (no…most definitely) needed some serious psychological assistance dealing with the horrors that he saw over there. But this was a time before phrases like Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) became a household name and generally accepted in the psychological community.
For the record, Uncle Smitty had no kids, though he had a constant flow of transient girlfriends … but never married, and never settled down.
The Christmas of 1974 would be his first Christmas back in the United States since his recent combat tour and trust me,he had every intention of ensuring that all of North Philly knew he was back on the block.
For the record, Uncle Smitty had no kids, though he had a constant flow of transient girlfriends … but never married, and never settled down.
Uncle Smitty, was known for his wild antics back in the day and believe me, Christmas was certainly no exception.
So. In the spirit of the Holiday season, and as a fitting way to carry this unique Christmas story over to the next generation … well, sort of. I proudly present to you … Uncle Smitty’s Christmas Story.
I swear to you that most of it is “absolutely” true. Now enjoy.
Uncle Smitty’s Christmas Story
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all throughout Philly,
The weather was bone cold, downright freezing and chilly.
The bars were all closing, last call for the pubs,
Uncle Smitty grabbed his coat, and emptied his glass mug.
He had not a wife, nor children, or even a fur pet,
We were the only real family, for this gritty and tough Vet.
Mamma baked gingerbread cookies while Pops put up the tree,
Big sisters carried the ornaments and drank Eggnog with glee.
We were having big fun but was soon getting late,
No sign of Uncle Smitty, how long could we wait.
Pops had invited him over to share some Holiday cheer,
Would he spend Christmas alone, drinking Bourbon or some beer?
The snow fell on the City, like a blanket of dust,
The icy streets were now quiet, not even a bus.
Only the stop lights now flickered on this holiest of Eves,
On Wissahickon, on Broad Street, a rough City is at ease.
Uncle Smitty walked home slowly, just mumbling to himself,
“Jack I hate the Holiday Season, damn Santa and his Elf.”
“Ain’t no brothers got no chimneys, to drop yo’ fat butt down,”
“I guess only rich kids get Christmas chimneys, while lil’ poor kids get frowns.”
“How’n the heck is that fair, aint Santa chimneys for all?”
“For the white, black, and yellow…for the short, medium, and tall?”
Suddenly, Uncle Smitty was struck with a brilliant plan,
He’d bring a classic Santa “chimney” Christmas, to his good brother and fam.
Now, Uncle Smitty was in construction, so kept big tools in his truck,
He quickly grabbed his sledge hammer and threw our gifts in his ruck.
He drove his old pickup, straight down Columbia way,
Like a fearless “brotha” Santa, but flying a Chevy,’stead of a sleigh.
And then, in a twinkle, we heard a crash on the roof,
Like the bounding and stomping of a drunk in work boots.
As we ran outside and swiftly focused our glance,
We saw Uncle Smitty and his hammer as he started his dance.
He boogied down to strange music, that only he seemed to hear,
He smiled and screamed “Merry Christmas family! I bring you peace and good cheer!”
My Pops was straight speechless, as Smitty ‘s voice echoed strong and thick,
“My little bro gonna have a chimney this Christmas, just right for ol’ St. Nick!”
His crazed eyes were now blood-shot, his hair white from snow,
His hands were near frozen, his ice-filled beard seemed to glow.
With a quick wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Uncle Smitty lowered his mighty hammer, much to my poor father’s dread.
The boom could be heard, clear out to South Cherry Hill,
The neighbors were now all awake, “Hey, crazy Smitty … what’s the big deal?”
Grumpy Ol’ Lady Rainee threw open her window, “Man, I’m callin’ the cops!”
“Befo’ that stupid Smitty, straight tears up our block?”
The streets were now filled with Police lights, with six or more cars,
Uncle Smitty’s Christmas chimney project, could put that brother behind bars.
“What the heck is he doing?” said Sergeant Stacks in dismay,
“Did this guy go plum nuts, on this peaceful, Christmas Eve day?”
“He’s my brother,” said Pops, in a low, cautious tone,
“He’s a combat Vet, and quite lonely, this is kind of ‘his’ home.”
“He wanted to build a nice chimney, for his family to enjoy,”
“To watch St. Nick drop down through it, with a sack full of toys.”
“Please don’t arrest him, his intentions were all good,”
“I won’t press no charges, it’s just a few shingles and wood.”
So the Police gave Uncle Smitty a break, and the crazy drunk came inside,
He gave us cool gifts, drank black coffee, and with joyful cheer Smitty cried…
“Merry Christmas my family…you know your Uncle Smitty aint quite right…but Seasons Greetings to all, and to all, a Good Night!”
Written by Andrew Brock | Goombay Tally Blog Writers | goombaytally.com | Share us on Facebook! | Contact us in the comments section