room to grow.
last week, in this small, rural southern town i call home, i visited a store. a named-store but one i won’t name here.
while shopping, a woman i know spoke to me. i taught her child, now grown, many years ago. there was talk of weather. updates on the adultchild. sharing about the new year. personal goals. food prices.
then she says another of her children, also grown, just lost a job in our small town. mom didn’t elaborate, but alluded that the termination was race-related. i listened. asked a few questions. listened some more.
mom says the manager has always been uncomfortable with black people. mom says she’s known this person for a long time.
i say i am sorry for the problem. mom says not to worry, the adultchild of hers will have food and a place to live, regardless. i am not sure how to respond. we say goodbyes, but i carry the story with me around the store wondering if i am blinded by the color of my skin, too.
fewer than ten minutes pass. i am checking out. the man in line behind me has two items, one of which is a six-pack of beer. i invite him to check out ahead of me because my cart is full.
the man is tall, clean-cut, but wearing a work shirt from a local facility that anyone around here knows well. it is shortly after 3 p.m. i think he might have just finished his work shift.
he is also black.
he is gracious. thanks me kindly. proceeds to the register and prepares to pay. the cashier asks for i.d., asks for him to take his i.d. out of his wallet. stares at it. stares at him. although this man is not elderly, i see that he has lived a good deal past the twenty-one years necessary for the legal purchase of alcohol in the state of georgia. after a short harumph, the cashier accepts his money.
now, my eyes are down, but i proceed to lift items from my cart.
the cashier says to me, you know, they all look alike. i have to be sure they aren’t trying to pull something over on me.
i mumble something about how i understand following the law.
but she doesn’t i.d. me when she rings up my bottle of red.
one store. one afternoon. i think we’ve still got room to grow.