Experiencing and Witnessing Racism blog series: Teressa Sivers’ entry
October 11, 2017 / By Rev. Teressa Sivers, Chair of the UNY Taskforce on Eliminating Racism / 4 Comments
I was a young adult, attending college for my undergraduate degree at a small, northeastern liberal arts college. The semester was on break so I had some free time to do some shopping. I drove to the mall closest to my home, a familiar spot, and began going through the motions of finding clothes for school and work. After several hours, I realized I needed to use the restroom but the public facilities were a bit of a walk from my location. Without giving it much thought, I approached the sales person and asked if I could use the store restroom. She quickly agreed and led me back to the bathroom in the back.
As I came out of the restroom to resume shopping, I noticed a fellow shopper asking the same sales person if she too could use the bathroom. To my surprise, the sales person quickly said no, stating it was for employees only. I blurted out, without thinking, "You just let me use it. I'm sure it will be okay for one more. I'll take her back." The woman gave me a grateful smile and expressed her thanks.
As we walked back, it finally occurred to me (I was very, very naive) that the sales person had said no because the woman I was walking back, was African American. The sales person had greeted me and my request with a happy smile. This same person had frowned and seemed annoyed with this African American woman for the same request. She and I were the only two shoppers in the entire store, being a weekday. We were the only ones to witness the use of the bathroom. That experience made me much more aware and observant for other instances of racism around me.