Posted by: abbiewatters | October 3, 2016

Invisibility: Out of sight out of mind

Chapter 13 of Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of RACE by Debbie Irving

Watch “True Colors” on-line. Write ten words that describe how Glenn (black) is treated. Write ten words for how John (white) is treated. Which customer service experience feels more like yours?

Glenn

  • ignored
  • followed
  • rejected
  • cheated
  • insulted
  • suspiciously
  • belittled
  • discouraged
  • minimized
  • stereotyped

John

  • welcomed
  • appreciated
  • friendly
  • encouraged
  • trusted
  • valued
  • honestly
  • helpfully
  • respected
  • supportive

I recognized the customer service I have come to expect when I saw how John was treated. I also remember a time when I was guilty of micro-aggression.

Several (like 25) years ago, I had a little knitting business. In a (failed) attempt at marketing, I joined an arts and crafts co-op. Management had leased an empty grocery store with lots of parking and plenty of space to show goods. There were pottery items, clothing, knitwear, paintings, needlecraft, etc.; basically it was a testament to the horribly failed economy in West Texas in the late 1980s. I could display my wares there, and the management would handle the cash register. People who displayed there had to “volunteer” 4 hours a week on the floor to help customers, etc. One day, I went in for my shift, and when I got there, another volunteer pulled me aside, pointed out a nicely dressed woman of color, and told me to follow her around. Now I realize how naïve I was, because I assumed she had been caught shoplifting, or something, but gradually, it occurred to me that nobody else was being followed, except two other black women who were also in the store shopping. I stopped following her, and as soon as the month was up, I took my crafts away. I still cringe whenever I think of it.

If you would like to join me as I blog about my experiences with race, please read the book. It was life changing for me.

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