Last night, a friend and I got attacked by a thug at Subway. Imagine big guy with tats and a wife beater tee, sweaty and overbearing. It started when he harassed his employee, a small young guy with not much to hold his own weight, sweet kid. I, being 6 months pregnant and tired, asked him to stop picking on the kid and focus so we could go. I was told I could leave the store (not without my sub!) He later held the receipt to my face, arm extended to my nose and bawled it up. As I was leaving, he and two of his non employee friends stood arms crossed in front of my car. They didn’t leave until I backed away. It ended with the police being called but ultimately told to contact cooperate (which so far has its own challenges).
Now, I hope you didn’t get the imagery wrong. It’s very much important to my point. Did you read “big black guy” or “small white kid.” Well, the mean employee was white. The harrased employee black, African decent. The two friends, black. Shocker? Maybe not. Two black women being picked up by a white man doesn’t seem so far fetched. He being egged on by his two black friends however…… mind blown!
Why though? Did I expect his two friends to have loyalty to their own race before another? Maybe I just didn’t expect anyone to pick on a pregnant woman or even allow another to do it. (Not that I needed back up!) Or maybe, it’s because it’s hard to see this incident as anything other than a white man picking on three black people.
I tried to isolate this event to simply a disgruntled employee lashing out at his customers. I didn’t want to see it as a race issue. However, I found it hard to distinguish those facts. Would a black man have done the same thing? I can’t be sure but I don’t think so. Why? Job security! This 30 something year old white man loosely stated “I don’t care about your complaints. You know how many complaints I have against me? ” How is that even possible? How could an employee have numerous complaints, enough to brag about and still have his job? I really tried not to bring race into it but jobs for big black men aren’t advertised on bill boards ya know. He won’t be loosing his that easily. Had this been a black man, I don’t think he’d have the idiots to bawl up my receipt and hold it to my face. Why? Well job security.
I could be wrong. The black employee, the two black customers before me, myself and friend, and the one after me may have all just pissed him off. I could be looking too deeply into it but I feel a bit of privilege at play.
As for his two friends, I wonder if they noticed he gave everyone in the store a hard time except the 4 white guys who came in after us. Even put a shirt on for them! They may want to reconsider the type of person (not the color) they are associated with cause privilege doesn’t ever spill over.