A few days ago, my best friend and I took a trip to Notting Hill Gate to celebrate the release of her debut book ‘Twenty-Four’, which is a collection of poetry about culture and the diaspora (click the link to support please).
As we were in Notting Hill, we therefore decided to venture into the many different boutiques which line Portobello road. We stumbled across a vintage store that my friend was eager to go into, as her eyes were drawn to the visual merchandise. She is very big on aesthetics.
So, there we were two carefree black girls entering a store to peruse its goodies. The boutique like many in Portobello is small and intimate and as it happens we were the only customers in the store at that point in time. The entrance of the store directly faces the cashier desk and as we entered both the cashier and the other store worker glanced up at us and carried on with their conversation. Ok, so far so normal. We’re not too bothered by this as we are Londoners after all.
We walk in and start going through the racks of shirts. Minutes pass and my friend eventually holds up a black shirt with green feather lapels and exclaims that she likes it. In that moment two white guys enter the shop and are immediately greeted with “Hello. How are you?”
We freeze and instantly look at each other.
Micro-aggression strikes again!
So there we were, two black women standing dumfounded in a store that no longer made us feel welcome. Two black paying customers who didn’t even receive a customary greeting. Two black ladies that were clearly made to feel invisible by the cashier and her work colleague.
I was shocked, annoyed and above all so confused.
We decided to exit the building. We firmly understood that our business was not wanted.
I know there is someone out there reading this and screaming:
‘Why you making this about race?’
My answer to this interrogative is simply this:
In this instance, race, was definitely a defining factor.
What else could it be?
Let’s look at the facts: Two black females walk into a shop and are treated differently from two white males. One pair is treated with open humility and the other ignored. Both pairs are dressed ‘appropriately’ (I put appropriately in inverted commas as your attire or choice of dress should never be a reason as to why you are marginalised), however, one is greeted whilst the other receives no customer service whatsoever.
Micro-aggression is real!
I can hear another question crop up from the naysayers:
‘You said that you wasn’t bothered, so far so normal, what’s changed now?
Now i’m bothered because they went out of their way to ‘other’ us. If they had ignored the other customers like they had us, then we would have put this down to a lack of customer care, given that we would have both received the same treatment. But as you can read, both pairs were given two different experiences to the same situation.
Black people do not make this stuff up for shit and giggles. We live this day in and day out.
Both workers failed to greet us as they did not want to see us.
Do you know how deep this is?!
I’m getting annoyed just writing this and re-living the situation again.
It is also ironic that this micro-aggressive act took place in Notting Hill of all places. A place built on the blood, sweat and tears of Afro-Caribbean migrants. A place that not too long ago was a slum and left to minorities to regenerate. A place, where nowadays people that look like me are no longer welcomed.
I am disgusted.
I really wish we had said something before we left the shop. Let them know that this wasn’t ok, nor was it acceptable and it is certainly not the way you treat people, let alone customers that are willing to spend in your store.
But, as we have seen recently from the media, Black people speaking out against racism and discrimination are met with derision and scepticism. Look at what happened to Munroe Bergdorf who spoke out against systematic racism and was rewarded by being fired from the L’Oreal diversity and inclusion campaign.
Racism is still alive, they just be concealing it.
My best friend and I will be taking our hard earned coins elsewhere.