I remember it like it was yesterday. As I pulled up to a liquor store near the University of Missouri-Columbia’s campus, I had no idea that I was about to experience one of many instances of racial profiling at the school. It was 2005, my junior year there, and I was preparing to attend a party along with three of my friends.
By now I was used to the unbecoming stares of suspicion by staff as we browsed the store aisles. My experience shopping at Chicago’s local beauty supply stores owned by members of other ethnicities groomed me for that. I was even used to not being greeted with a pleasant “hello,” despite store personnel greeting my white counterparts.
I was used to that.
What I was not used to was being called a “nigger.”
I entered the liquor store with one of my male friends, also an African American, while our other two friends waited in the car. I selected my drink of choice for the evening, and my friend was still deciding what he wanted to get. As I proceeded to pay for my drinks, I noticed the cashier was staring at my friend as he stood near the freezer. I paid it very little mind because I was used to it. It wasn’t until my friend turned to grab a bag of chips that things escalated.
The cashier couldn’t even ring me up before hopping over the counter to confront my friend.
“GET OUT! GET OUT! You are stealing!” He yelled.
My friend was shocked and attempted to explain to him that he was simply trying to figure out what he wanted to get. The store clerk was not buying it. I also attempted to explain that he was not a thief, but our skin color overpowered our voices.
“THE NIGGER IS GONE!,” my friend yelled as he angrily exited the store. I left the items that I was going to purchase on the counter and followed suit. But that wasn’t enough for the man. “That’s right you are a nigger, you all are niggers,” the store clerk spat.”
As he followed us out of the store, he not only fixed his thick Greek accent to continue to call us “niggers,” but called the police and recorded my friend’s license plate number. At that point, we realized that we had to stay, as getting pulled over in Central Missouri could prove to be dangerous.
Two squad cars arrived, and three white officers exited the vehicles.
“What did you do?” one said to my friend. It seemed like he was convicted before having a chance to state his peace.
As he explained to the officers what happened, the store clerk continued to yell at us. He refrained from calling him the N-word, but disputed just about every single detail that my friend divulged. Luckily, the police officers let us go after running our IDs, another practice that I was used to.
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