I stopped in at one of our neighborhood grocery stores this afternoon to pick up a few things and tried to use three coupons that I printed online. The cashier told me they didn't take those and I responded with something like, "Oh, you don't take those anymore?" since I had used them there before. She called over the supervisor and he said to "take them from her." She did take them, but commented to me that he'd told her earlier that day not to take them.
I suspect that he told her to take the coupons because I was white and perhaps looked like a middle class shopper. My brain was going several directions at once. My first instinct was to thank him for taking the coupons, because I'm used to having to convince cashiers to take printed coupons. Then I realized it was probably because I was white, and I felt like I should say something, but I wasn't sure what to say or who to say it to. My mind didn't think fast enough and I just took my groceries and left. Now I'm looking back wondering what I should have done. I know that racism persists as long as those who benefit from it keep quiet, but I'm not sure what would have been the best thing to do.
Part of me says that maybe it wasn't because I was white; maybe it was just because I was polite and looked confused about the policy. I wouldn't want to accuse someone of racial profiling/preferencing if they were just trying to help a customer. But even if he was just trying to help me out, the fact that I'm white most likely played into his decision, consciously or not. And my reaction bothers me because white people so often brush racial issues under the rug, not wanting to upset anything or raise any trouble. It was too easy for me to just walk away, and I can do that because I'm white. In the end, this wasn't a huge issue or a gross example of racism - it may have been nothing - but my gut said something and I didn't do anything about it. It isn't just the large injustices that perpetuate racism. It's all the little things that slip by unchecked. It's the thoughts and perceptions, the looks and the judgments, and the slight differences in how people respond that systematically favor one group over another.
(I would appreciate some feedback here, so don't be shy - please tell me what you think.)