Today the Daily Mail and the Sun reported that ‘Mixed race shopper’, Charlotte Ogden, 24 from Leeds had filmed a security guard following her around Aldi on the 7th April.
She said that she felt threatened by the security guard as he was so close that she could feel his breath on her neck.
When she confronted the security guard she was given a non-apology, saying that he’d been told to watch out for a ‘certain type of person’ and told by Aldi’s management that he had done nothing wrong.
‘At first, I had mistaken him for another customer and didn’t take too much notice, but I soon came to realise he was trailing me up and down every aisle…My initial discomfort turned to anger at the injustice of his behaviour, so that was when I took out my phone and started to film him’ – Charlotte Ogden
Of course, typical of tabloid newspapers the comments were full of people who had never been in the situation whingeing that ‘it has nothing to do with race’.
As a mixed woman myself, there has been many many times when I have been openly followed around in shops and stared at with eagle eyes.
For those that think that this is just paranoia, it’s not a coincidence when you are stared at and followed every time you have entered the same shop.
And for those who will say, ‘just go to another shop then’, it’s not that simple, how can we guarantee that it won’t happen in another shop? Why should we be forced out of shops because of the staff’s bad behaviour?
It is a very familiar feeling for me, and I am certain that almost every other POC has experienced this too.
The suspicious eyes, the methodical peering between the aisles, the prickling on the back of your neck when you can feel someone behind you, and eventually the quick look away or sudden flurry of activity when they realise that you’ve noticed them.
One of the worst things is when there are already people in the shop and the security or shop keeper is looking bored barely looking up, but as soon as they see you they’re on high alert.
My heart sinks when I feel those beady eyes burning into me, I’m made to feel like some kind of criminal rather than a perfectly innocent customer. And it works, sometimes I feel so under pressure that I just walk right back out.
I know I shouldn’t let them win, but I also don’t enjoy being made to feel uncomfortable for doing something as everyday as walking into a shop.
The worst case of this was when I was holidaying in Barcelona with my family and we stopped into a corner shop to buy some drinks.
Although the shop was full of people, as soon as we went to look at the drink cabinet one of the staff chased up the stairs after us and proceeded to stand behind us and stare. The man at the till was also staring over at us.
I got so agitated that I stared back and raised my eyebrows at him, and he just stared back aggressively. Anywhere we moved we had our own personal marker.
If we weren’t so desperate for hydration we would never have stayed there, our money was even heavily scrutinised when we paid like we were doing something illegal.
At the time I was baffled because all of the staff in the store were of South Asian heritage, their skin tone was not much different from our own.
I naively thought that other ethnic minorities didn’t hold racial prejudices, and it felt even more hurtful coming from people who understood what it felt like to be treated differently because of the colour of your skin.
Another time was in Macau. I was looking forward to going to the Venetian (an extravagant casino and shopping centre modelled on the city of Venice) for months and even though it was a tourist attraction, I was made to feel very unwelcome in any shop that I walked in with unfriendly eyes staring from every angle that said ‘get out’.
In the UK you either get the subtle staff who approach you and ask if you’re okay and hover around you until you feel pressured enough to leave, the open stare, or the security stalker.
In my first year of uni I was relentlessly security stalked every time I would go to buy my essentials. At an already precarious time, this just added another burden to my life knowing that I would be followed whenever I just wanted to buy a loaf of bread.
I’m glad that stories like this are finally being reported in the mainstream media as it’s something that everyone needs to be aware of!
When you feel like you’re the only person at the receiving end of it, it’s easy to try and make excuses or believe that you’re just being paranoid – and even easier for other people to do the same.
While these security guards are following POC, they are ignoring real criminals because of their racist prejudices.
It’s about time that people educate themselves to realise that you can’t distinguish a criminal just by looking at them.
Just because I have a higher level of melanin in my skin does not mean that I automatically become a thief.