Two employees were chatting at the register. Both looked up when I crossed the threshold, taking in my Afro blossom, but rather than speak to me, nod or smile, they merely fell back into their banter. Floored by the blatant dismissal dis, yet urgently needing a black dress, I made my way to the Ponte sheath black dress I’d seen on the chain’s website. I grabbed a size ten (and a size twelve just in case) and helped myself to the dressing room. Before I could release the French-door latch, an employee was damn-near on my heels. “Would you like to try those on?” Obviously. “Can I get your name?” This sudden interest is because you fear I’ll put one of these dresses in my handbag, right?
My face is shiny with shame as I type this next sentence. Excited that I still fit into a size ten and because the dress itself was gorgeous, I was ready to bag it up, in spite of the way I was treated.
But, stepping out of the dressing area, I just about tripped over an employee who glared at me with assumption. I woke up at this point, remembering that I have a closet full of black dresses. And remembering that I deserve to be spoken to, and served. Just like any other customer.
Things You Think About When You Shop While Being Black and Wearing an Afro
Make sure your large designer handbag is zipped up – you don’t want to give people reason to think you’re about to put sunglasses, a blouse, or a shoe (because two couldn’t possibly fit) in your purse.
Don’t linger too long in a corner, even if you’re merely reading reviews on your phone – because security will be alerted that you’re a theft risk.
They see my Afro/dreadlocks/Senegalese twists – but they can’t see my eyes. Otherwise, why didn’t they speak?
When I walk out, they’ll dart to the nooks to check to see if I left crumbs when I hacked off security tags and tossed hangers. Finding nothing (because I have never swiped a thing), they’ll chagrin and remain on high alert for the next customer who looks like me.
I’m telling my girlfriends, daughter, and mother that mahogany women with green money aren’t welcome here.
We smell your assumptions, see through your yellow eyes, and we catch the sly way you link arms with some customers, but clutch our ankles.
I didn’t write this for the good guys, and there are many of you. I put these words down for those who still have so far to go in the customer experience. If you know your company needs sensitivity training in customer service, get in touch with me.