Friday 14 June 2013

Racism, Fear and Laundry

Just found myself in the middle of a super awkward racist encounter. I went to drop some clothes off at the dry cleaner, which is run by an older Chinese lady who works alone. She's had multiple scary encounters with guys who have parked outside and watched her count money, ask when she's closing, etc.--casing the joint. One was waiting outside when I came in.

She tells me he's been waiting there since 1:30pm. She's nervous. I try to calm her down, advise her to call the cops. As we're talking, a dad walks in with a toddler in a stroller, asking how much the cost is per shirt. The lady freezes up. He asks her some totally normal questions, she doesn't answer. She asks him if he's come in before, he says no. She says she thinks he has. He says he and his wife have just moved to the neighborhood.

He's black. She's scared. I try to make conversation with him, keep things relaxed, but no dice. She takes the shirts, and tersely requests that, next time, he not block the shop with the stroller, and she will bring his shirts outside to him. He leaves, wondering what the hell just happened.

Once he's gone, she says she thinks that the man waiting in the car might have called the man with the stroller. She was worried she was going to be in a hold up. I explain to her, no, he was just a dad with his kid. I realize that she is probably scared of all the black men in our neighborhood at this point.

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