Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Busted at Bashas'...(because I'm Black?)

With events in news headlines somewhat dominated by events in Ferguson (Missouri), and similar incidents...I was very amused at what happened to me.  And hours after...wondering if I should be (a bit) more concerned...

December 2...about 9 a.m.  I was dressed in black jean pants, and what passes for black sport shoes...a button-up shirt with a collar...a long trench coat...and a fedora-style on my long afro-style hair.  I hadn't shaven in about a week.

Outside of the Bashas' Supermarket at 8360 North Thornydale Road (in Tucson, Arizona), I put my large black backpack in a cart, and walked into the store.  I walked towards the Customer Service counter, but stopped before reaching it because I noticed their humidor.  After browsing what was available, I purchased a lottery ticket...and then walked into the main aisles areas to browse.

After reaching the far end of an aisle, a (male) member of their staff asked me if I was looking for something.  I said I was, and he informed me I had walked past where the items are.

He asked if I had taken something.  From what he said, I thought he was asking if I had taken some "scratchers"...a type of lottery ticket.  After understanding he meant backscratchers, sticks used to scratch one's back when they have an itch...I LOUDLY laughed.  I couldn't help it.  I found this situation VERY funny.  And, a little confusing...but I responded I did not take any backscratchers.  He was very polite, but said he wanted me to tell the truth.  I asked if he wanted to search me...he said he did not.  I reminded him he could check the security cameras...he stated he did not want to do that.

I went to where he said the items were in the aisle on the shelves...and he was correct:  I had walked past them.  The guy came to where I was with a backscratcher to show me they had them in stock.  And, again, asked me if I had taken any.  I again said I had not.  He said that they sometimes do not allow customers to bring bags (and backpacks) into the store.  I informed him that I have a lot of electronics in my backpack...and asked him if he wanted to look inside of my backpack.  He said he did not want to.  He just wanted me to tell the truth.  A different member of their staff stated they are missing three backscratchers.

I went to a checkout line...and he was there.  He again asked if I had any backscratchers.  I said I did not.  I stated I didn't know they had any in stock.  He pointed towards the end of the customer service counter...where the cigars are.  I needed over twenty seconds to notice the backscrathers...they were hanging on a freestanding display.  After entering the store, I had walked past them...before I browsed the cigars that were available.  He again stated that he wanted me to tell the truth.  I informed him that I did not have them, and if he/they wanted to pursue this issue with me further I would be going to the business next to their store to get a haircut.

At the beginning of this all, I was amused.  As it progressed...maybe I should have been offended.  I did begin to allow my thoughts to expand on the experience, and what it all might mean.  Michael Brown/Ferguson.  John Crawford/Walmart.  Other situations where there may have been misunderstandings by authorities as to exactly what actually happened.

Multiple times in my life, in various places (in the U.S.A.), I have been "a suspect"...I "looked like somebody"...I just happen to be in the area.  Police have driven past other get to me (and again, I had to hire a lawyer after which I was not compensated for when I won).  With no warning or preface, police have begun contact with me with:  "Where you goin'?"  "What's your name?"  "Come here, boy..."

Three times I was approached about the issue in the store.  I wonder:  Were the security cameras on?  Was a recording of my visit made?  Why was it necessary for us to talk about it three times?

Were they suspicious of the way I dressed?  They way I look (my ethnicity)?  The length of my hair and beard?

"Busted at Bashas'...(because I'm Black?)"  I don't know.  Before I entered the store...I had considered applying for a job there...