The Undercover Mother Speaks!

I am an undercover mother.

Let me explain. I am a white woman raising four wonderful, multiracial (Black and Caucasian) children and I have had some interesting experiences. To further explain the totality of my disguise, I stand 5’ 1”; have blonde hair, green eyes, and a face that resorts to a smile in most tense situations.

As an Air Force family, we have lived all over the United States. This has given me some diverse snapshots of attitudes about race, since I am treated very differently depending upon whether I have my kids with me. Although I have many stories to tell, I am writing this post to describe what happened at a local store.

Shortly after we relocated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, I took the kids to school and the babysitter went to drop off film and shop at the local mega-mart. They had a one-hour photo guarantee, and that is about as long as I allow myself in any store! After dropping the kids off at school, I shopped, returned to pick up my photos, shopped at bit more, took the photos along with the rest of my cart, and checked out and thought no more about it.

A week later, on a non-babysitter day, I had more film and shopping to do. The first part of the day was the same; drop-off film, shop, etc. I returned to the photo shop, with my two littlest angels in the cart, to pick up my film. I was met with a tight smile, and a halting explanation that the “store policy” was that I had to pay at the photo shop. Hmmm.
I asked the salesperson if this was a new policy, and was told that it was not. I mentioned that I’d been to the store the week before and paid for everything at once up front. Crickets chirped in my mind as I waited for the clerk to process this information. The stammering and stuttering that followed told me that I’d caught him in a subtle type of racism. There wasn’t any good reason for him to decide to apply this rule. He’d glanced at me and my children and made up his mind about who I was and what I was and he didn’t like or trust what he saw.

I asked for the manager.

The manager reiterated the “policy.” I told my story, and mentioned that a policy is not a policy if it doesn’t apply to all. I asked why this intermittent policy had been applied to my purchase, and was told that the store’s experience with ‘some’ people, blah, blah, blah. If you’re reading this, you probably know the excuses. It was a stare down, and a show down, but I think I opened some minds. I do know that the outcome was not the Hollywood version, because the policy was enforced so that EVERYONE had to pay at the photo shop. Ideally, the store would trust their customers, but I’ll settle for equal treatment.

Julie Cuzick, The Undercover Mother, is a new contributor with us, learn more about her HERE!

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Comments

  1. Hmmm, or could it have been that, during the initial visit to that particular store, the salesperson was not aware of the “policy” and therefore made a mistake by allowing the shopper (undercover mom) to purchase her pictures at the register up front instead of asking her to purchase them at the photo counter? She is only guessing as to the salesperson's and manager's motives. Sometimes I feel that certain behaviors are predecessors to self-fulfilling prophecies such as…”I am the mother of biracial children therefore I have to be extra vigilant and make note of any possible racial harassment…and…I'm going to make you aware of it, too!” I like to look at the positive side of human behavior and chalk up strange behavior to human error, negligence or just a having crappy day. Let's face it, a lot people in the service industry these days lack proper training and skills or just don't give a darn about the proper way to treat a customer. Either way, I try not to be judgmental. I know there is plenty of racism in the world and it saddens me. I just try to maintain focus on the positive. Undercover Mom seems like a loving and caring parent. So give your biracial children an extra hug today and show them they are above any disrespectful behavior and, hopefully, they will rise to any future occasions of racism. (Easy for me to say since I'm a Caucasian middle class female, huh?)

  2. Gina Carroll says:

    I have to be careful when I respond to the “how do you know it's racism?” response to a post like this. I have to take a deep breath and remember that the asker has the luxury of not being deluged with negative instances on a constant basis like the one Undercover Mother discusses. The Undercover Mother mentions in her post that this is one of many stories. And as an African American woman, I am sure she is telling the truth. I, too, could fill this blog with my own unfortunate stories. The Undercover Mother has a different experience though, because she is a woman who gets to hear exactly how people feel about those of her children's race when she is alone among them or “undercover”, as she puts it.

    Those of us who are constantly faced with desparate treatment due to prejudice and bigotry have unfortunately been trained by our assailants– trained by constant assault. And people who do not have this experience love to remind us to give others the benefit of the doubt. If we were not in the habit of giving others the benefit of the doubt, we absolutely could not function. It's as if you think we want to see our children and ourselves discriminated against, and we like to point these things out and have our children looking for them! This is an incredible insult to our intelligence, as people and as parents. Do you believe that we educated and worldly adults cannot discern the difference in treatment, when faced with it time and time again?

    You say it's easy for you to say as a “White Caucasian middle class female” and it really is true! As a woman,if you walk by a construction site and a group of men whistle, do you say, “Oh, they were probably calling a cab just as I walked by”? No, you don't. You observe the obvious because you and others have experienced it before. And hopefully, you have other people in your lives who believe you because you are a grown person with reasonable powers of deduction.If a women who appears to be reasonable and intelligent and caring and careful,like The Undercover Mother, says she faces racism on a regular basis. I think it's reasonable to believe her. And I think it's preferable to spend your time and words helping the world deal with the reality of that, instead of dismissing her as paranoid and overly-sensitive.

    I sincerely do not mean to sound angry here. Direct words can come off that way in a conversation like this.

    You, Anonymous, sound, too, like a thoughtful and caring person. I just want you to consider the reality for some of us. It's helpful to hear it so we can all be a part of the solution.

    Thank you, sincerely, for taking the time to express your opinion! 🙂

  3. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I completely understand where you're coming from. Unfortunately, our country is not at that place where there is tolerance for everyone from every race, religion, etc. Here's to hoping for equality and tolerance for all in the future.

  4. ageorgsson says:

    Here's my take: the thing about being confronted with a situation like Undercover's is that you never know when you are being treated differently because of your race or whether you simply are dealing with a person who is having a bad day. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. It's a horrible thing to think that people doubt your intelligence or trustworthiness or ability to pay simply because of the tone of your skin. It keeps you off balanced and uncomfortable. White people don't have to constantly wonder whether they have been mistretes because of race. They can blithely assume they are dealing with an-across-the-board jerk. Also, I agree with MadonnaNegra. Well said.

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