What it feels like to be profiled- Montgomery, AL.

We all know how annoying it is to hear someone complain about racism, especially when there is none. I am guilty of such annoyances myself. Often saying “why are you dressed like a thug, if you don’t want to viewed in that way?” Just this week an older associate of mine told me 99% of perception is appearance. When someone’s perception of you is based on your skin color are [you] truly at fault of their ignorance? If you have never experienced what it is like to live as a person of color please open your mind. Now I will readily admit that sometimes we are a sensitive people. We may over exaggerate things and feel self conscious of our own skin. Who wouldn’t though? When dark skin is literally the marker of slaves, aliens, and terrorist; those  targeted by these names will be sensitive to the stares of their lighter skinned neighbors. As a person of color we are prejudged by those who fear us as thieves, uneducated thugs, bombers, illegals or anything else you can think of.

My experience in this city has been relatively great. I love my university, which I am part of a minority on campus. I love the interactions with the people all around me. The thick Southern accents of country whites, the slang talk of cornbread fed blacks, and even the mixed accent of back wood Hispanics are all wonderfully engaging when first meeting someone. Yet, there is a darker  (or whiter) side to this beautiful city. The city where the Civil Rights movement struggled from a seed to a sampling, into a great oak spreading across the United States of America. The city which proclaimed states rights were just as important as federal rights before succession. Yes, the city where I was educated  into a Southern gentleman, has an air of unspoken racial hierarchy about it.  Now to my story:

At a vet clinic on Carmichael Road, a normally friendly place, I experienced uncourtly behavior from the “owner”, the most subtle form of racism and good ole boys club, I think I have ever experienced in my life. It was the kind that is, you know, based on race; but can’t prove it without a doubt. Similar to when you walk past a white person’s car and they lock it as you  get closer. Yeah, that nice television brand racism. Continuing with my experience with regards to community ethics and social behavior, I live close to the vet clinic. I decided to jog-which is usual for me. I like to keep in shape. My attire was a light running mask, a tank, and jogging sweats. My eyes, hair, and tattoos were perfectly visible.  I literally had on the most minimal of clothing. I was going to pick up my dog’s pain medicine, he can’t walk without it.  As I’m removing my running mask  and proceeding into the door, I am forcibly halted. One moment before the whole explanation unfolds. I can understand how someone may feel if they see a person coming into an establishment with a runner’s mask on. However, again, I was removing the mask – remembering that kids of color in hoodies have been killed in similar misunderstandings ( as African Americans it is unfortunate we must be aware of God blessed skin). As I was saying,  a man was blocking my entrance into the business. I am shocked at first. It was simply disheartening to have a fellow American (who I sacrificed fours of my life to defend) look at me with eyes that screamed the word that shall not be named.

Asking myself, why is this person stopping me? He claims they are closed. Mind you, I have been coming to this establishment for three months, and have even picked up my dog after hours due to the courtesy of the amazing vet techs. I know that they are not closed, it’s 10:00 AM, closing is at 12:00 on Saturday.  My shock turns into suspicion. Why is this aging man stopping me? What is going on? Again ,he exclaims, “We’re closed what do you want?”.  My suspicion turns into frustration. I explain that I am here to pick up my dog’s medicine and it’s already paid for.  He doesn’t believe me. SO first, he denies my entrance and then he bluntly lies to me.

The police are contacted. 15 minutes later they arrive. He claims I am threating him. That was a lie. In hindsight, I guess it’s a good thing that my dog will no longer go to a dishonest vet. I explain what’s going on to the police.  They didn’t seem to take my claims seriously. Honestly I felt as though some type of documentation should have been given. I digress,  I am a big advocate of seeing color because it’s obvious. However, I am a bigger advocate that the central ideals that bound us as humans are much bigger than something that can be changed in a tanning room or in a bleaching tube. The two cops didn’t seem interested in the call and truly don’t take my claims very serious. As a tax paying citizen of the this great state and a red blood American, who has served his nation- and perpetuates the ideas of freedom. The idea that every man is created equally with inalienable rights, was not to be found with these two cops or this, dare I say, fellow citizen.

In summary, the vet lies to me claiming they are closed, because he saw a young black man coming into his establishment while removing a jogger’s mask. He calls the police (I also called due to feeling discriminated against) and lies about me threating him, and then attempts to banish me from the premises using white privilege. I typically don’t like to debate on race and race relations. In Quran it mentions “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” [Sûrah al-Rûm: 22], we were made as signs of God’s majesty. Can we please stop prejudging others based on their skin. If he had asked me with respect as a man, not barring my way to enter the building (felt like I was in the 1960s), not accusingly about my attire(coupled with my skin) I would have explained everything to him in a suitable manner. However, I could have been more calm, that is admitted. We are both at fault for misunderstanding one another. So I pray that he sees he can not profile a man based on stereotypes, and I must realize some people are ignorant and must not react to every foolish action I encounter. If I do, that makes a fool who fell for the joke.

A. Carter

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