Friday, April 1, 2016

Let's talk about the R word

Dear Lunds & Byerlys:
I am slow to take offense, which is usually a good thing. The first time I stepped into your store in Northeast Minneapolis, the manager gave me the side-eye stare. My cart was half-full when I stopped mid-aisle to check items off my list as well as to see when the next bus was due. The aforementioned manager came zipping down the aisle and stooped down close to me to pick up a microscopic shred of trash, but really to get a better look at me.
I was only a little puzzled by this at the time, but I remembered it well enough to feel - uncomfortable. My subsequent visit confirmed my initial discomfort. Kudos on cleanliness, manager, but try to be a little less obvious. I only saw one other person of color while I was there; I don't know if he got the same twice-over.
On my second visit, Lunds & Byerlys, I was on a mission. It was Saturday, and for Easter dinner, I put prosciutto and a sparkling elderflower drink in my cart, as well as sushi bento for a lunch treat. Then I headed for the meat aisle, and this is where things changed. They have a small but beautiful meat case, as well as a fish case with sad tuna, but there was a gorgeous two-foot plus long grouper as a centerpiece. A man, a POC, was asking the two meat guys a question but I did not follow the conversation. I was looking at ribeye for my son and New York strip for myself, and I took my time comparing, as I wanted well-marbled beef.
At this point, one of the meat guys came out to see what I was doing. I ignored him, as I'd already chosen my steaks. I wheeled past the meat display and complimented the other meat guy on the case, and went to look at bread. I spent around $100 that day.
There were no other people of color while I was there. I wonder, is this because, like myself, they feel uncomfortable - scrutinized, marginalized in Lunds & Byerlys? When I told my son about my experience, he said, "What do you expect? They don't know what you are. Do you see other people of color there?"
Black citizens everywhere - my short term discomfort was/is nothing compared to the judgement you experience every day.
So Lunds & Byerlys, I need to think about whether it is worth exposing myself to this repeated karmic damage by patronizing your business. It is noteworthy that I never feel uncomfortable shopping in Target, Cub or CVS here in Minneapolis. Only in Lunds & Byerlys.
You, out there in the Interwebs - have you felt discriminated against. Lunds & Byerlys - are you willing or able to discuss this? Let the discourse begin!