Yesterday I returned from one of the most amazing Italian vacations with my girlfriends and all I could think about as I stepped off the plane in Madrid was the “incident” that occurred the day before my trip.
Before I start, I realize that what I’m about to describe is something that many of my friends and family have also experienced at some point in their lives(many have experienced more times than they can count). In fact, the chances of me experiencing this without even knowing is probably pretty high. However, because this is the first time it has happened to me that I can actually remember, I feel the need to share. I created my blog to share my amazing & happy life experiences here in Spain, but I would be inauthentic if I didn’t share everything, including the not-so-pleasant experiences. I want to be able to share this experience, move on with my life and continue to focus on the positive, so here it goes:
Last week, I walked into a clothing store and I was 100% being followed by security. Now unless my father went straight up “taken” on me and hired a bodyguard to look after me, I’m pretty sure I was being racially profiled.
I would consider myself a pretty observant person(particularly now that I live in a foreign country) and I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt. But after further thought, speaking to a friend about it, and being very much in tune with my intuition, I am confident in saying that this incident is what I perceived it to be.
Up until last week, I’ve pretty much felt accepted and at the very least tolerated wherever I went in Madrid. I read about the racism toward African immigrants and heard personal stories from other black ex-pats but until now, never really felt like I’ve had a racist experience. I get stares sometimes but I always feel that I should never think too much about it because you never know what people could be thinking in their head about you(it could be all be positive for all I know) and frankly I could care less what they think. My mentality has always been:
“Yeah, I’m different, and what?”
This all changed last week when I noticed a security guard in a clothing store I was shopping in trailing behind me or always in my vantage point. When the majority of customers and potential “shoplifters” were all on the first floor, he decided to follow me to the second floor(both times). Every time I looked around, he was there. He never allowed his back to be turned towards me. Even when I walked towards him to look at something, he would slowly position himself to where he could clearly see me. He followed me up until I checked out at the register, and by that time I knew what was up. As I stood waiting for a cashier to ring me up, he passed by looking at me to which I gave him a look of disgust and shook my head.
So you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you just walk out and not spend your money at a store that made you feel like a criminal?” Well, there are a few reasons: The store employees weren’t the ones following me(even though the owner probably hired him), I really needed and wanted what I came in the store looking for AND part of me wanted to prove to this jerk security guard that I was a paying customer.
As I walked out the store I stared him down and vowed to never step foot in that store again. I was angry that I couldn’t find the words in Spanish to say something to him.
I felt so uncomfortable, violated and demeaned. What part of me looked like I would steal something? Oh, that’s right, my skin. The skin that God gave me along with the curly/kinky hair God also gave me. As much as I hate to admit it, after that moment, I see Madrid just a little differently. The majority of my experiences living here have been amazing. However, I couldn’t help but think about this one incident when I arrived back to Madrid. My vacation took my mind off of it but as soon as I returned I knew that I had to deal with my feelings. I remembered that many of the clothing and grocery stores here have security guards. How will this affect me going forward? Would I be paranoid? Would I come across as paranoid therefore causing me to get noticed even more? Do I need to make sure my hair looks certain way or that I’m dressed a certain way? The fact that I am a foreigner who does not fluently speak the language makes this even more of an issue for me. I’ve never, not once, had to think about this here until now.
This morning, I decided to wear my hair completely wrapped in a hair scarf. I actually second guessed my decision as I made my way out the door this morning. For sure, I knew I would definitely stand out with my hair like this, but I figured this would make for an interesting experience. As I walked into my local grocery store this morning, I noticed the security guard, and immediately felt my paranoia kick in. If I’m not mistaken, I do believe he had his eye on me too.
I still love you Spain.
Now back to my regular scheduled blogging.