Was It Instinct or Racial Profiling?


Growing up I can remember being in a store and having the clerk follow me around. Asking me repeatedly if I needed help. The scenario would be different when I would return to that same store. This time I was accompanied by my girlfriends, who were white. That encounter was totally different. And that was my first experience with racial profiling and it wouldn’t be my last.

Let me say that if I am walking by myself and I see a group of white people, black people, Latinoes. Or any group of people approaching me. I am going to be cautious. I’m a city girl with street smarts. But I also have common sense.

The other day something happened that made me come home and do some serious soul-searching. I was in Walgreens.  I was looking for something in the aisle. I felt someone looking at me. When I looked up two men were staring at me.

I felt nervous and uncomfortable. Was it something in their eyes? Their clothes? Their race? I tried to shake it off and moved to another aisle. As I waited in line behind the two men. I realized that I was no better than the woman who stalked me in the department store twenty years ago.

The conversation between the two men was not a conversation that I wanted to hear. Their racial slurs were a reminder of the hatred we have in our world. I waited my turn to pay for my things and moved quickly to my car.

When I went outside to get in my car. I saw the two men getting into their pickup truck. The men were dressed in fatigues. Their pickup truck had a huge confederate flag flying in the wind. The back of the truck had the name of a militia on it with KKK bumper stickers and decals.

Was it justified for me to feel uneasy and nervous around these men? Was I guilty of racial profiling? Were my suspicions confirmed? Was it okay for me to feel the way that I did?

Later that night, the incident at Walgreens was heavy on my heart. As I wrote in my journal. I thought about what made me feel uneasy. I was upset for making assumptions. I would not want people making assumptions about Harrison.

The movie A Time To Kill came to mind. After seeing that movie I think I always linked white men in a pickup truck to the characters in that movie. That was wrong on my part. I hadn’t thought about it in quite some time. Until I had my experience in Walgreens.

We are all human. We all have experienced profiling in our lives. For me, this experience allowed me to search my soul. I was guilty of racial profiling that day. And I was wrong.

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