THE GATEKEEPERS AMONGST US is something we'd like to bring up to the public in discussion in regarding multi-cultural interactions; institutions such as the criminal justice system, education, and finances, are known to have regulatory policies and laws that over time have been seen to be inherently skewed for the privilege of Anglo Americans. There are people within the society, however, who believe they also have a duty ("White Man's Burden") to make sure minorities, especially African Americans, get no sense of equality. They police for the police.
Here's an example. My wife and I happened to be spending our holiday in Solvang, CA this past year, using up our remaining timeshare credits. We had lived there for a month seven years ago, when I'd first become an assistant principal in Santa Maria. My wife, being German American, was enchanted with the locale. But it held no such compulsion for me. She took along an old canvas bag that she'd gotten from a local retailer there, and told me she wanted to get the free bag our timeshare offered through the shop.
My wife went into the shop alone, save for our grandson, on the second to last day of our visit. She told me that she showed a nice young clerk her timeshare coupon, and her faded bag, and a replacement one was given her without incident. But my wife decided to give the "solarized" (sunlight activated coloring) bag to my grandson, yet still wanted another for herself. She gave me a duplicate coupon she found and told me that I was supposed to get a bag for her the next day. How hard could that be?
The store manager was giving a demonstration to shoppers from off the street at a blue light display in the store, when she saw me come in. She was of retirement age and piped up, "You look to be on a mission," she said.
"As a matter of fact," I waved my coupon, "I came to see you about a tote bag,"
"Give me a minute, and I'll be right with you."
The young clerk, who was doing nothing but standing by the manager during the demonstration, apparently couldn't get me the bag, for some reason. And soon, I found out why. Or, so I thought. "Well," the elderly clerk said, "do you know about the postal service being behind on deliveries?" Actually, I'd heard that it was Amazon, but maybe they got their merchandise through them, as well. "We're waiting for yesterday's delivery, yet," she said. "And the delivery won't come until around two." It was brunch time, so I gave her a genial smile (a good smile, too--people think I have implants) and said I'd come back. My wife always tells me to be sure to smile at people.
It turned out, for various reasons of procrastination, that I never got back down Alisal Road that day. But I promised the wife she'd get her bag, so we took a stroll down to the store on the morning of our departure. In fact, after we'd already checked out of the timeshare. My wife and grandson sat on a street bench in the unseasonably warm sun while I found out that I was the only customer, and was grateful I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time there. Cut to the chase, you know.
The wavy-haired blonde girl smiled welcome and folded t-shirts. "Good morning," I said. "Did the tote bags come in?"
"Not so fast," the elderly lady practically snapped at me. "You don't just come in here and pick up a free bag. You got to see the store, first." The coupon said nothing about that, nor were there any signs to that effect, but I went along with the prerequisite. And she went through the same blue light spiel I saw her do the previous day, but added. "Now, over here is the men's section. I want you to look that over, too."
That's when it got weird. She started to pump me for information:
"Where you visiting from?"
"Why would you go to a timeshare less than an hour from where you live?" I was about to ask her if her last name was Krupke, but decided I didn't want to balk at her rudeness because my wife was patiently waiting. The manager continued and pointed out their children's line, trying to get me to give her a size to see if she carried it, but I ended the game she was playing, and asked to get the bag. She pushed a card out to me that asked for my personal information, and I began to fill that out when she mentioned, "Oh, and I'll need to see your room key."
"We need to see it because the coupons are only meant to be used by the owners at the timeshare. If I see the key then I know you didn't pick the coupon up from off the street."
"We've already checked out."
"Do you have anything to prove you're a timeshare owner? You can come back with paperwork or something, and then I can get you the bag."
THAT WAS IT!!!
I walked out of the store and collected my family and went back, introducing my wife.
"Now, I know the coupon said there's only supposed to be one bag per family," I admitted, "but tell me how my wife could a bag yesterday without being asked to see our room key? But I'm supposed to show you one?" Oh, my, did that get that old lady riled. She began screaming out a defense, but I just let the Caucasians standing there in the store, including my wife, to figure it out for themselves.
Learn more about microaggressions, and the threat of stereotype in my book, "Microaggressions Across the Great Divide" in the T.R.I.A.G.E. Educational Group section.