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Maybe I am imagining things and it never happened or maybe it happened only to me. Actually, it’s probably still legal so whether it happens or not, who will listen to me? But no, I can’t be the first person to ever be treated like slavery still exists in a retail business. It happens everyday all over America, but the world only knows about it if someone has a video. I didn’t have a video for this shopping trip but I did have a computer keyboard.

I try hard not to write about racism anymore, but in this lifetime there isn’t much else as compelling and egregious as a real life racism story. They happen everyday, all day and in 7 decades, I have almost seen it all. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it is just live and more often it is on television. In my lifetime, many white people have accused me of being too sensitive because they say their mean acts or words weren’t “meant” to hurt. What no one mentions is that you cannot feel the pain unless you feel the pain. It is not the right of a racist to pretend to imagine or judge the pain of the oppressed. They can’t. That’s like someone who has never been shot claiming to imagine what a bullet feels like.

On the other side of the aisle are the victims of racism who handle the whole thing like it’s 1899. My television remote immediately goes into action when someone on tv expresses the opinion that “We need to get together…”...etc. If people truly respect and love each other, get along and racism goes away in my lifetime, I will give my house away. Racism will not go away, so what are they talking about? It was just this month that a worker came into our new home, saw my tribute magnet of Hattie McDaniel and immediately expressed how funny he thought she was. “SHE WAS NOT FUNNY BY CHOICE AND HER COMEDY WAS PRODUCED FOR A WHITE AUDIENCE. SHE WAS A SONGWRITER, SINGER, BUSINESS OWNER AND ACTRESS WITH TWO STARS ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. MCMCDANIEL WORKED AS A BATHROOM CLEANUP MAID WHEN THERE WERE NO PARTS IN HOLLYWOOD FOR HER TO PLAY A MAID. SHE SAT AT A SEGREGATED TABLE AT THE OSCARS WHEN GONE WITH THE WIND WAS NOMINATED”. Those are my words, of course. He returned, did his work, said nothing else about Mrs McDaniel and left like he was supposed to. Racism will never go away, so stop pretending it will. He thought he was saying something good by “relating” to Hattie McDaniel in an African American household. Actually, his racist perception forced him to say something stupid. He should have said nothing unless it had something to do with tools.

Our latest saga started in March, 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. We were renting and had just been given news from the landlord that our rent was about to take off like a Cape Kennedy launch. Well, why not if they can get it and they can.

Mom always said “You get what you give” and we must have been next in line for the Angel because he came, we planned and we bought a new home. New also means waiting for the builder to finish, so in the meantime we bunked with family. During those months, I shopped at the AT HOME store at least once a week. Nothing was expensive but the time allowed me to think about what we would need when we could finally move in. I bought a new salt and pepper shaker set, placemats, a stool on wheels, two outdoor plant pots, some plastic feet for the bottom of furniture, a shoe storage bench, a paring knife and more.

We finally moved into our new home in July, but the AT HOME store was still on my radar. I decided to pick up a small desk on the website and have it delivered. In November, I received a 20% birthday coupon in my email because I had spent more than $500 within a year. Had I spent less, the store promotional coupon would have been 15%. Last month I purchased an ugly free standing metal shelving unit online for the garage. I specified “store pickup” and the next day I was standing at the same cash register with the same cashier that I had seen almost every time I had been there since March. Let the story begin:

The shelf was heavier than I thought and would need to be assembled. The manager brought it to the register in a cart and as soon as I mentioned the 20% discount I had received, she disputed the percentage and demanded to see my email. I refused at first because there was no point. The item was paid for online and it was not her business. However, she didn’t stop. All I can say here to make a long story shorter is that she insisted I was only supposed to get 15%. I decided to show it to her, just to see and be able to talk about her reaction. Her reaction was: “Wow, you did get 20%!” (As if she thought I couldn’t read)

My message here is that she thought she had the right to question me, just like the three losers in Georgia who stopped, questioned and killed Ahmaud Arbery. My video is the letter I wrote to the corporate headquarters about the nerve of a young, not worldly white woman to question an over 70 educated, world traveled African American woman who can write, who will write and who did write. Poor little lady never thought I would write to her bosses because she didn’t think I could, didn’t think I had the nerve but mostly didn’t think I could have possibly spent over $500 in a year. Perception that she was taught during her questionable upbringing, came back to haunt her. Good! Life may never improve for people like her or for people like the runaway parents of the murderer in Michigan because they think they are smart. I don’t really care about them until they trespass on my life, well being and peace. The AT HOME store manager did just that.

I love telling our younger family members that although we think it’s illegal to treat African Americans and other people of color like slaves or children, it IS legal if you don’t at least try to do something about it. Learn to write, learn how to peacefully get your point across. I could have punched the woman in the face or at least I could have thought about it, but why? She might expect that. I did what never crossed her mind. No company wants the scar of that kind of bad behavior within its ranks but they won’t know about or do anything about it if you don’t tell the people at the TOP. Chances are the folks at the top are just as ignorant or uncaring as that store manager, but the repercussions are different for the top. For them it's about bad publicity and financial loss.

I have friends who laugh at my letter writing. They claim not to have the time, patience or faith that it will result in anything. I think the real reason many people let atrocities slip by is because they don’t know where to begin or don’t have the confidence to begin. Just this week, our local ABC interviewed Dr Jill Biden who said it’s more important for her to teach her students confidence than to teach them 2+2. So true and perhaps my biggest argument with my own people. Have confidence and handle it that way.

Yes, after my letter, the company made a quiet attempt at rectifying the racism.

by Dianne Thompson