Someone called the police on my husband today. It's happened before and it will happen again. It will happen again because my husband is Black.
When his daughter was three, the store in our neighborhood called the police. Suspected of shoplifting a tiny patent leather purse. He wanted it for his little one. He looked inside it, probably took too long making a decision. The woman called the police. He looked suspicious. He was shoplifitng one of those tiny purses. They were nine dollars and ninety-nine cents, he told me later. It was the first time I ever saw my husband humiliated.
Today, he went into a Levi's store. Browsing while waiting to pick me up from an appointment. The call goes out for a "Black man wearing a Cal t-shirt and a gun on his belt." The store is worried about a man with a gun. It is a reasonable concern. But then they add this: He's the guy who shoplifted in here before.
It was quickly straightened out. The cops laughed. Sounds like Officer H. with that Cal shirt and gun on his belt. Officer H. wears that damn Cal shirt way too much, and those cops knew it was my husband and I could see how they would think it was funny, except it's not.
He's the guy who shoplifted in here before. They lied, they embellished the story, when in fact, the cops would have come just as quickly with only the description of a man with a gun.
It always takes a toll on us. It ends up in an argument. I am frustrated and angry and I hurt for him. He is a man with a sterling character. It hurts me to think someone thinks otherwise. He tells me nothing has changed. I say I don't want to hear that nothing has changed. He says I don't understand racism. I say we have a Black president goddamit, and things have changed. He walks away, shakes his head at my inability to understand.
I understand better than most.
I will never know exactly how it feels.
But I understand better than most.
I just don't want to believe his words.
No, Joan. Nothing has changed.