Shopping While Black (and being a grandmother!)


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

A PNN Notes from the Inside story submitted anonymously from a currently incarcerated community member.

by Staff Writer

This is a common experience for people of color like Grandma M.

A chain store security mail staff approached Grandma M. She had just exited the chain store. A male was saying something to her she did not understand. All she knew was this male in plain clothing with no ID was closing in on her personal space coming from behind her.

The male chain store security did not identify himself as he approached into her personal space Grandmother M. frightened went back into the store. This is where the chain store security falsely accused her of having store merchandise. He began to block her exit from the chain store.

Grandmother M. turned to find the chain store manager; he was not at the customer service desk. Grandmother M. knew she did not shoplift and therefore the allegations were false. She attempted to exit the door. The chain store male security stood toe to toe refusing to allow her to exit.

She asked the male security to remove himself from her path. The male store security was in her personal space. Grandmother M. had been falsely accused of shoplifting and she decided she would not allow herself at her age to surrender to the false charges. She exited the chain store and began to walk off the property. The chain store security continued to lodge these false accusations and improperly invade her personal space.

Grandmother M. again told the security staff he had no probable cause. What was in fact occurring was the security person was terrorizing and harassing this customer off the property into a busy intersection. Pedestrians began to gather. The grandmother was under duress.

The local police were called. Several police vehicles responded. The lie that the store staff reported was this grandmother went into the bathroom to hide store merchandise. Their lies were overwhelming.

The police that responded at the store entrance went into the store and view the store security video, verifying this consumer did not shoplift. The chain store video was clear on the fact there was no shoplifting by this consumer.

The other responding officers were at the street site (off store property). The first responding officer rustled Grandmother M. on to the police vehicle hood and handcuffed her for arrest. Grandmother M. asked for the officer’s shift supervisors or shift commander. She had been falsely accused of shoplifting and harassed and terrorized by the store security. As this grandmother continued to explain that the allegations were false, the officers in the store had not communicated with the officers detaining the grandmother.

The grandmother asked the second responding vehicle officer for his supervisor. This grandmother did not want to allow herself to be incarcerated for false allegations. This second responding officer began to humiliate the grandmother for requesting his supervisor. He used some uncalled for excessive force on the grandmother.

Grandmother M. did not give permission for a search of her property because she did not shoplift. The officers went into her book bag. One officer held up some merchandise Grandmother had purchased from another store and told the chain store security to use that merchandise for a probable cause arrest. The merchandise would have not had the store’s UPC code on it.

The identifying marks would have clear codes of the store she purchased it from the Grandmother still had her receipt. This did not matter; the officers just wanted to arrest her. Grandmother M. civilly requested the district supervisor and this they did not like.

As you might expect, with all the false accusations and harassment from the chain store security and the officers inappropriate response, Grandmother was having trouble breathing. She requested the first responding officer transport her to the hospital. The first responding officer replied, “Oh yea right,” to her request for medical care.

This is why so many people die in police custody. This is also an example of how low-income people and homeless people are targeted and profiled into criminalization. This grandmother did not shop lift but she would have an extended stay incarcerated until it was all sorted out.

Grandmother would have to suffer the trauma of more abuse. A systematic abuse reserved for people of color and the poor.

Grandmother M. is black. When the calls went into local 911they began as a simple misdemeanor but falsely escalated to a felony. This grandmother had been falsely accused and the false information fed into 911 could have led to more injury and death.

This is why disproportionate numbers of blacks die in police custody .The police responded believing an unqualified and not properly trained civilian store security. The false calls went from general to shoplifter to a strong-armed robbery. It was none of those. A potential deadly call based on racially profiling consumers.

This grandmother was racially profiled and the police who handcuffed her were wrong. The judicial system and the correctional facilities sink their claws into blacks and poor citizens providing them a positive cash flow off incidents similar to the enclosed. There are many innocent people who have this similar scenario and go to jail and sit until it is sorted out.

This is a cruel trauma for the victims of racial profiling. Grandmother M. respects police but they just assumed they could humiliate her because she asked for their supervisor. At no time was this grandmother violent to the police. Instead, they have no respect for blacks. There is even less respect when you know they are abusing you just because they can.

We have been crushed for decades by acts described here. We have our voice discredited just because we are low-income. We have internalized the enclosed racist and sexist acts. We people of color are suffering a health crisis from the continuum of excessive force and misuse of our human rights.

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