White Tears and Casting HAMILTON

To paraphrase Jay-Z, I just saw a Facebook post that fucked up my day.

If you’re new to this blog, I eat, sleep, live and breathe all things Lin-Manuel Miranda, and have been actively following (and participating in as I’m able) the development of the Broadway smash HAMILTON since that little six-minute ditty at the White House six years ago. I’m just gonna drop it here for the three people who haven’t seen it.

Thanks to sold out shows into 2017, the show is now developing productions in Chicago and San Francisco, as well as national tours. So naturally, there was a casting call put out designed to preserve the casting dynamic…..which didn’t sit too well with some people.


"You can't be serious....."

Since I saw it on FB, I also captured the edited header as well


"It must be nice, it must be nice....."

Cue my blind rage. My poor friend Jason who reposted it got a blistering earful on my feelings….fortunately, I’m sure he knows it wasn’t a direct hit. Still, I felt the need to vent and had a whole head of steam drafted on the WTPD Facebook page before I shifted gears and brought my thoughts on the subject here.

Some very good points were made on how the wording appeared, and yes, I did consider that in parallel to the infamous casting call from the Straight Outta Compton movie. But as I have been following, studying, and critiquing HAMILTON for nearly the whole six years it took Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring it to the stage, I’d like to think that I have almost as much of an intimate knowledge of this show as anyone directly involved. In every single interview Miranda describes the show as “America then been told by America now,” meaning the melting pot of actors on stage largely telling the story of a whole bunch of dusty, scrappy White boys who shaped the republic we now live in. So you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a little as you see Black and Brown faces playing the obviously Caucasian figures you see in your history books and on your money. But, that is not to say that these are the only ethnicities in the cast. Jonathan Groff, Thayne Jasperson, Betsy Struxness and Neil Haskell are CLEARLY White and just as important to the show as their differently hued castmates. ( I believe that Betsy and Neil have since moved on, but you get the point.)

The popularity of HAMILTON is leading to other standalone productions and  national tours, and it would be idiotic to suggest that the casting mix that is clearly working and a large part of the curiosity for theatergoers be changed. I’m quite certain there was an open call for all dancers regardless of race, and with the huge number of Caucasian actors in the theatrical arts pool, the producers’ quota had been hit. This is not the same situation as say, the movie Gods of Egypt, where a conscious casting decision was made to have an almost solely White cast tell a story about ancient Africans. (Yes, children–Egypt is in Africa. Quel surprise.) At no time did the producers even hint at the exclusion of White actors in the show; this particular casting call asked for “minority” actors in order to mirror the current balance.

In entertainment, producers and directors are always going to be looking for a certain type. That’s simply the nature of the business. However, insecurities from the most well-employed section of the acting pool are not going to be eased by intimating a false controversy in this particular case. Welcome to the competition, fellas….this is what everyone else deals with on a regular basis. And if you’re still feeling some kind of way about this, I’m afraid you will never be satisfied.


"I'm about to change your life...."

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

So, I really wasn’t planning to watch the Grammys this year.

I forget what award or performance snub pissed me off but I stopped watching the Grammys years ago, Googling only the categories I’m interested in to see who won. Categories, by the way, that never got a millisecond of airtime anyway, so my personal boycott was never difficult.

And then, this greeted me early on a Wednesday morning.

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Aw crap.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any significant amount of time knows that I will move heaven, earth and maybe some smuggled body parts to watch him, as the old folks used to say, “spit across the line.” So that basically meant my Grammy boycott didn’t stand a chance. And I actually watched it live all the way through the Hamilton performance and win, and was pleased with a great deal of what I saw. I expected no less than complete awesomeness from HAMILTON, and they did not disappoint in either the performance or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s traditionally expected acceptance rap. But I was treated to some very pleasant and well-performed moments, such as the new artist duets, the Kendrick Lamar performance, and the artist tributes. I love that Lionel Richie not only received an all-star musical tribute in connection with his AmeriCares Humanitarian Award, but got to participate in it. And of the memorial performances, my absolute favorite was the collaboration of Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix saluting Maurice White; however I did appreciate the fact that Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Lady Gaga and Bonnie Raitt devoted their stage time to Glenn Frye, David Bowie and B.B. King, respectively.

But even with all of that, there’s still a lot that Grammy should have done WAY better. The sound issues, rushed thank yous, and usual snubs of certain categories in the broadcast have needed attention for years, and are probably among the reasons I stopped watching. But one in particular has folks up in arms–the paltry mention of the late Natalie Cole.

And this Mic article didn’t help the conversation progress:

 On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Being in broadcasting and having some experience on what it takes to navigate getting a live show on and off the air in a timely manner, I can understand the choices behind some of the argued points; for example, the fact that Natalie Cole got an extended moment during the In Memoriam segment but not a musical tribute seems to be more at the discretion of the performing artists and not the Grammys executives. And as there are a lot of categories that don’t even get an on-air mention, I can understand not having a separate performance scheduled for her.

However, the protests are not entirely wrong….

Something I did not know before I clicked on the Mic article was that Natalie was the first Black artist to win the Best New Artist award. Given that place in Grammy history AND her legacy as the daughter of Nat King Cole–another musical groundbreaker–you would think that would automatically get her at least a couple of lines in the awards presentation. I’m sure Sam Smith wouldn’t have minded saying a thing or two about her in presenting the Best New Artist award, an award he himself received the previous year.

But the larger issue is that I saw VERY FEW female artist categories, more male performers spotlighted than females, and a seeming disregard for providing them any airtime at all–did you see Ed Sheeran’s female co-writer get completely cut off before being allowed to speak? Time crunch or not, that was completely unacceptable.

And this is probably why the Natalie Cole “slight” is such a big deal. People spoke up about the men who passed on. Most of the male presenters and performers got their full say. And while three of the biggest female names in current popular music got solo spots, the rest of the ladies were lumped into duets and groups–good performances, mind you, but it gives the appearance that female solo artists are undervalued. There needs to be a better balance between the big name draws and the up and comers, the male and female artists, the popular and less exposed genres, what’s expressive and what sells. Naturally, there’s no way to make everybody happy every time…but what we see is not lining up with what you’re saying. You cannot tell us you celebrate all kinds of music and feature the same artists and categories every single year. You cannot keep parading a musical sausagefest and then say how proud you are of women’s contributions to the field. That’s why people feel that Natalie Cole deserved more than she got…not only for the sake of her legacy, but for the women who stand on her shoulders.

Grease: Live! As Told by Twitter

I was gonna write about this when I could watch it totally undistracted and not have to worry about hitting commercial breaks, but kaylaraymiracle did such a good job on Storify, I figure I’ll just share hers. And the fact that she quoted one of my tweets is an added bonus. 😉

(Of course, I may wind up doing my own anyway–with all the ties Lin-Manuel Miranda had to this production you KNOW his live tweet of this was off the charts epic…..)


Dumbass Diaries 15: Bear Bares All

I’ve had a few articles in the queue for this that I took a little too long to address–the separate entrance for poor people to a New York apartment building, a few regarding some outdated and draconian views on children’s hair (which I’m sure I’ll eventually write because it’ll come up again), a bunch of professionals who never studied Latin or language and some two year old article on a perceived racist headline. But as asininity goes, this takes the cake.

No, really, it actually TAKES. THE. CAKE.

Baking has gotten quite elaborate–gone are the days when the simple sheet cake will suffice (and even those have gone to include computer-generated photos and graphics made edible). Three-dimensional sculpted confections have become wildly popular, and this woman named Sharon Green decided to order such a cake for her three year old daughter’s christening celebration at their church–a lovely little sheet case topped with pink blocks and two little teddy bears with pink bows. Cute, right?

Clearly not to Ms. Green (or any of her extra-churchy church friends). Apparently the toy bears’ rendering included an indentation representing the seam one would find on a toy bear–a seam that was interpreted as….wait for it…a labial fold.

Yes, you read that correctly. Ms. Green was upset because, to her mind, the bakers gave the teddy bears a VAGINA.


Bear-ly an issue, if you ask me….

I don’t even know where to start. First of all, in all my years of owning stuffed animals, I have never in my life seen an anatomically correct teddy bear. And considering it’s a BEAR, in what world would you attribute this physical characteristic to an animal?!? I mean, clearly as a mammal the female bear does have one, but I’m fairly certain it looks nothing like ours, nor is it that prominently visible. Hell, even beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh is drawn WITH A SEAM ON HIS STOMACH. Which is the other curious thing here–the “boy” version of this cake is made exactly the same way but blue.

But OK, she saw what she saw and was offended. Instead of checking the cake in-store (or even, perhaps–and I realize this is a foreign concept–asking about the design BEFORE ordering), she complains about the cake’s vulgarity and demands a refund. Still a bit prudish and projecting to my way of thinking, but still within her right to ask for a satisfactory product. Here’s the kicker: the bakery provided her with candy flowers to cover the “offending” crease, in an effort to placate their customer. After which, not only did she actually put the cake out to be served, but she put the flowers strategically to cover the “crease”–which actually calls more attention and actually looks more suggestive than the original design.

Considering she’d ordered the cake well in advance she probably couldn’t have gotten a substitute from this particular bakery on such short notice. But there were several more logical and less, well, anal solutions she could have gone for. Get a butter knife and smooth out the “offending” crease. Get an inexpensive sheet cake from somewhere else. Take the teddy bears off–it’s just as lovely with just the blocks. Or here’s a crazy thought–DON’T PUT IT OUT. I’m pretty sure little Tahlia could have cared less whether or not there was cake at this party, or if she did, what it looked like. it’s CAKE. For slicing and eating. And I’m guessing those bears were either going to get taken off the cake anyway for slicing OR sliced up for serving. Who’s gonna see a friggin’ crease once you cut it up? Was she somehow afraid that ingesting it would somehow translate into performing cunnilingus? I repeat–IT’S. A. CAKE.

Though they probably could have handled it better, I’m just as nonplussed as the bakery owner about this lady’s complaint. I wouldn’t have even interpreted that had it not been suggested, and the fact that Ms. Green did makes me wonder about what levels of repression and projection she’s dealing with. I also can’t believe she took that type of complaint to the public side of social media. Since the post has been deleted I can’t confirm whether or not this was a page post or an inbox message, though considering this story actually made news I have to assume the former…and if that was the case this lady really is a piece of work. Again, customer satisfaction is key and she had the right to complain about not getting what she thought she’d requested, but she approached it sideways to begin with. The tone of her complaint, the seemingly immediate jump to a refund request instead of inquiring about a suitable correction (or again, CHECKING BEFORE SHE LEFT AND MAKING THE CHOICE TO NOT TAKE IT), and the pubic public chastisement all leaned more towards throwing a tantrum instead of seeking a compromise.

I’d bet even little Tahlia has better manners than that.



Death to the Dumbasses! Reporter gets her due

A good while back I wrote a Dumbass Diaries piece the meteorologist who was fired for defending her natural hair. Because of social media “policy” (that to my knowledge KTBS-TV has yet to produce a tangible copy of), she was let go because of a response to a viewer post that said she “looked like a cancer patient.”


Well, the young lady in question, Ms. Rhonda Lee, seems to have landed on her feet, securing a job with WeatherNation. Good to know there’s somebody out there that prizes what’s IN her head and celebrates what’s ON her head as a bonus.

WeatherNation, you can go to the head of the class!


Dumbass Diaries part 14

This one might actually qualify to spark off a “Pissed Off Princess” series….

Kid commercials tend to be cute–the kid will ask a quasi-serious question and then take some action based in child logic that makes the audience laugh. So a young girl asking her mother about the heart health nutritional benefit of a cereal and then laying said cereal on her dad’s chest to “help” should garner a collective “Aw!” from the viewing audience, right?


Here’s why:

Yes, boys and girls–Cheerios had the unmitigated gall to portray an interracial family. And the Internet exploded with trolls and bigots. Commentary covering everything from aspersions on Black fathers to “references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes,’ and ‘racial genocide'” were spewed all over YouTube until the comments section was shut down. Not like that stopped this tide of wretchedness else on the Web…one faceless dumbass offered this priceless gem:

“These videos encourage people to seek partners outside their racial group. It already happens too much … for comfort. I shall eat Toasted Oats instead.”

Oh really now?

And as if the fact that there is actually controversy surrounding this ad isn’t bad enough, I have had two sad and sickening realizations:

1) As much as I’d like to believe that it’s only old, crusty, dyed-in-the-wool racist hatemongers, I fear that the majority of those posting this vitriol are teenaged Internet trolls who have grown up in a multicultural world and show know better.

2) I also fear that any of the following scenarios would have been more acceptable and less comment-provoking:

  • If it was a white couple raising this biracial child
  • If the husband had been white and the wife black
  • If the little girl was being raised by a gay couple

With all of the rapes, murders, corruption, adultery, etc. being portrayed on television in grisly, gruesome detail and very few people batting an eye, THIS is what gets America’s underwear in a knot? A commercial with a whole family unit talking about cereal? Seriously?!?

The horror.


Related links:

Code Switch – NPR: If This Cute Cheerios Ad Causes Drama, What Won’t?
It’s 2013, and People Are Still Getting Worked Up About Interracial Couples in Ads

Slate: Cheerios Ad Brings Out the Racists

Dumbass Diaries part 13

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

This might also qualify as the beginning of the Pissed-Off Princess series.

You might recall my documenting my natural hair journey back in October. While I am not fully comfortable with all of the style possibilities on myself, I have seen other women wear them fabulously. Such is the case for weather reporter Rhonda Lee. Unlike myself, being perfectly content to work behind the scenes in the television industry as I contend with this hair, Ms. Lee is right out in front of the camera wearing a close-cropped cut (known as a teeny-weeny Afro or a TWA).

There is at least one viewer who did not agree with her standard of beauty, and he felt compelled to comment on the station’s Facebook page:

    -“the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

Ms. Lee chose to respond to the “well-meaning” viewer with the following:

    “Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to whom you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.

    “I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.

    “Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.

    “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

A very straightforward, polite response to a very insulting comment. Her reward? She was fired.

Now several months ago, when Jennifer Livingston was ridiculed by a viewer for being overweight, she came out ON THE AIR with a five-minute commentary…and was lauded as a heroine and a champion against bullying as the video went viral. The story was aired on many local and national news outlets, and she was even invited to be interviewed on Good Morning America. So if Ms. Livingston standing up for her image is to be applauded, why then was Ms. Lee fired for doing the same thing? It’s not OK to tell a television news personality that they’re fat, but it IS OK to say a perfectly healthy, attractive, well-groomed woman looks like a cancer patient and needs to wear a wig? And what if she HAD been a cancer patient? What does the length (or presence) of hair on her head have to do with her skills as a weatherperson? I’m pretty sure it was not her hair taking notes and passing tests and earning that meteorology degree.

Frankly, I’m more insulted by Ms. Livingston’s situation being classified as bullying. Don’t get it twisted: the “concerned viewer” was as wrong as two left shoe for calling her fat–in fact, I believe the word used was OBESE. And while she looks like she may be over her optimum weight, all I saw was a beautiful woman who was quite capable at doing her job. That being said, I take issue with her comparing those viewer remarks to bullying. Yes, they were certainly insulting, sexist and condescending–but I can’t agree with them being lumped into the bully pile. If anyone was bullied, it was Ms. Lee–and sadly, THAT was by her own employers.

I spent a few good years up in Central Louisiana, and left a lot of family and good friends I would like to visit. You can be sure when I visit, that station will NOT be on my list of things to watch. Not even if it’s exclusive coverage of the Second Coming.


Dumbass Diaries part 12

You have GOT to be friggin’ kidding me…..

I am all for helping your public connect with your brand identity, but this goes far. I’d like to introduce you to this lady:


Needs no introduction, you say? Everybody should know who she is? That’s my thinking.

Gilda Radner–not only one of the funniest women in comedy, but also one of the biggest advocates for ovarian cancer, the disease that eventually claimed her life. Influential enough in this regard to have a support group named in her honor. Well, apparently not so much–her name and efforts have lost their relevance, seeing as some folks in charge have decided to rename the club so new, younger members unfamiliar with Ms. Radner won’t be confused as to the true purpose of the club. Really? Your literature can’t point out who she is? Do you think in 20 years the Betty Ford Clinic is gonna change names for “relevance?” What about the Mayo Clinic? The NAMESAKE of the club raised funds and awareness while SUFFERING through this disease–and that doesn’t rate her name staying on the door?!? What if everybody felt that way about namesake buildings? Think somebody’s gonna rename Rockefeller Center? Is there enough money to make Brigham Young University into Mitt Romney College? Whatever happened to learning some history?

I’m WAITING for the day somebody votes to rename the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I’m sure there’s a bunch of people who don’t know fact one about her outside of the fact that she had breast cancer. In fact, the foundation was formed by her SISTER in her name. Is anybody going to propose a rename when college kids don’t remember who SHE was?

I know one thing…the day Carnegie Hall becomes the Nicki Minaj Theater, I’m jumping off the nearest bridge….


Jewelry AND a car….and I’m SO not kidding….

Does THIS look like fun to you?

So I’ve told you about the finding of the lump at 13 and the first two mammograms and ultrasound. Welcome to Biopsy World.

No, the lump did not turn malignant. No, the lump did not grow any bigger or start hurting again. But apparently it so vexed my primary care physician that he ordered me a biopsy–which I fully intended to ignore, as I HAD ALREADY BEEN TOLD THE LUMP WAS BENIGN. Yeah…guess whose office assistant/secretary/nurse/whatever felt compelled to call me and ask WHY I hadn’t gone in…and further urge me to go? I’m thinking if several doctors over the 28 year lifespan of this thing have told me it’s nothing to worry about, WHY IN THE HAMFAT would I voluntarily go into to the hospital to get a big needle shoved into my breast?!?

Now don’t get me wrong–breast exams are important and should be taken very seriously, and if a malignancy is found, then swift action should definitely be taken immediately. But was it really necessary to order a procedure that at best, only reduces a single cup size and at worst, reduces the size of my bank account? Not to mention the permanent bruise that WASN’T there before, despite the booby ice pack they sent me home with.

(Please understand–I am not lax about keeping up with my health, nor am I lessening the importance of keeping up with these things and being as proactive as possible. I simply feel the need to rant because I AM on top of all of this and I AM following the advice of my OB/GYN, who has been keeping a close eye on my feminine and reproductive health for at least a decade now….and HE felt the procedure was unnecessary. Ladies, PLEASE continue to be vigilant about your health and do what it necessary to prolong and improve your quality of life.)

I was told to have someone drive me to and from the hospital (in case of residual drugs and to keep from doing any undue heavy labor or lifting), so I had my Mom pick me up. Checked in and got vitals tested and was talked through the procedure I was about to undergo. In the course of this the nurse asks if I’m wearing a bra. Uhhhh…no–was I supposed to? I figured I was going to be undressed from the waist up for most of the morning, so bring/wear as little clothing as possible. The nurse informs me that I’ll need the bra post-surgery for support of the surgical area…and, as I would later learn, the booby ice pack.

So I get wheeled down to a room where I’m told to lay face down in the now infamous flasher gown on this metal platform that looks like a topless tanning bed. And then the REAL fun begins. I get hoisted about a foot into the air and a section of the platform opens up, into which I am instructed to hang my breast down into. Did I mention that this “hole” looked like a cross between a car cup holder and a guillotine? I do as I’m told and proceed to have my breast clamped in a vise and one of the FOUR nurses (yeah, my little old Asian tormentor needed FOUR extra sets of hands to ruin my day) gets her doodle on making Sharpie marks on my boob. I’m told that this is so they can properly line up my breast and the biopsy needle so that once they press the magic button it can go in at the correct angle and start vacuuming Old Lumpy out of its comfortable home. I’m also told I have to lie completely and utterly still—as in no moving, no shifting, no turning, almost hold your breath still. I’m guessing I must have moved a few centimeters in the wrong direction because after having been prepped by the nurses and my little Asian torturer come in to start the procedure, I’m told the Sharpie marks aren’t lining up properly…so I get to be the Sistine Chapel ceiling AGAIN and get new Sharpie marks drawn on me. The biopsy needle was pretty big, about blood donating big (a size that made my senior year of high school the first and last time giving blood), but they also showed me a thinner, longer needle with the numbing agent in it. I do not like needles at all, but am masochistically calmed by being able to see it go in. However, since I was facedown hoisted in the air with my breast in a vice, I would not be able to see it coming—which freaked me out even more. Plus they felt the need to mention that “this is going to sting a little.” And did I mention they expected me to STAY STILL? I’m telling you, if I wasn’t already hoisted in the air too far to jump without injury, I’d have done my best Bugs Bunny impression through every wall in that hospital. I stressed to everyone in the room that I was going to need sufficient warning before I got stuck with that needle or else the breast was coming out of that vice and fists were going to be swinging. That still did not prepare me for the 12 second ordeal that was the numbing agent. It did not sting A LITTLE. It stung A LOT. A WHOLE LOT. It felt like flaming Everclear was being shot into my body. They give the anesthetic a few minutes to circulate and then I feel the dead weight of my breast getting jiggled to make sure everything is ready for the biopsy needle to do its turn. From what I understand the computer is programmed to insert the needle underneath the breast fold and go in and out of the lump at several angles, spinning and vacuuming until the whole thing was removed, which confused me a little because I thought a biopsy meant removing a section to test for malignancy, not removing the whole thing…which since I already knew it was benign I WAS NOT OK WITH.

At least 15 to 20 minutes of this lying flat on my stomach on a hard surface has gone by, and my troubled lower back is letting me know about it. Loudly. So I attempt to subtly shift my knees to the side a little—just enough to get the pressure off—and get fussed at again by five people to not move. I’m sorry, do YOU have to attempt to walk out of here bent over like Quasimodo because YOUR back is on fire? From a procedure you didn’t even want? No, y’all have chairs and comfortable shoes and oh yeah—GET TO MOVE. I’m not even perfectly flat—I’m in this flat-ish position with my knees digging into the metal platform and my ass tooted in the air. All I needed was my hands tied to my ankles and a ball gag; I felt like a trussed-up turkey in a fetish chamber, and my dominatrix wasn’t even cute. After a few more minutes it’s finally over and I get to move, but by now I’m already near tears because my back has locked up in protest and the simple act of moving from the platform back to my wheelchair is excruciating. But I’m shown the various pieces of what used to be my lumpy companion and brought into the next room where that accursed mammogram machine was—because I simply had not been subjected to quite enough pain and manipulation for the day. I suffer through yet another mammogram then get wheeled back upstairs to get back into my clothes, which now includes the bra my mother ran down the street to Kmart to buy for me so I could support the post-op chesticles and have someplace to stuff the ice pack. I’m instructed not to raise my arms over my head or lift anything heavy within the next 24 hours—which meant my mom took it upon herself to carry my purse for the duration and make sure I got safely up the stairs and into my apartment, sufficiently drugged up and fed and laid up somewhere until my husband got home to take care of me. For the record, my breast hurt a long time afterward, my breast size did not significantly change, the so-called “small, unnoticeable” bruise is still visible all these months later, and it forever for all of that Sharpie ink to wash off.

By the way, I DID request jewelry and a car this time. The nurses laughed at me and referred me to hospital management. (Judging from the nearly 2 grand on top of my insurance they keep asking me for, I gather THAT’S not gonna happen.)

…’cause that’s the ONLY way they’re getting me back in there…..

Be an eco-friendly shopper, go to jail.

"That'll teach you to try to save the planet...."

I am not an active environmentalist. I am not fanatical about water conservation through low-flow or rain barrels, I don’t compost as a rule, and I haven’t yet had cause to rely on low VOC paint. But I do try to recycle wherever possible, and, in the case of grocery shopping try to reduce my reliance on plastic bags. What I do get I reuse as garbage bags or return to stores that have recycling receptacles available. But my main method of reduction lies in reusable cloth bags. I have bought a number of store-specific bags from the grocers who offer them, and also have a few generic bags for other stores. I leave them in the back of my car so that I can remember to bring them in—though I often have to remind some cashiers to use my bags instead.

A local Asian market I frequent is one of the stores I typically use my bags. Since I usually shop at slower times of day due to my work schedule, I had had no issues using my bags at this store, save the occasional cashier reminder. But I wound up having to go one evening, close to closing time, when I am typically in for the night. But the hubby requested milk, and as the specific brand of milk was the least expensive I had found in my area, I rushed off to get some. I went into the store as usual with my grocery bag looped on my wrist; since all I was getting would fit in one single bag I bypassing the shopping baskets with the intention of using my bag for that function. Incidentally, this also helps me to stick to my shopping list and not pick up impulse items. I was on a mission to walk straight to the refrigerated cases, pick up my milk, pay for it and get back home. On my way back there I noticed a police officer standing guard. I had never seen security in the store, but it made sense, particularly for the late hour. I was mildly comforted by this fact until as I stepped toward the dairy section the officer stopped me and told me I needed to check my bag at the front of the store. Perplexed, I told him it was a grocery bag and I was merely coming to grab my selection and head toward the register. He insisted that I should have checked my bag and then told me that I could not conceal my groceries inside the bag. Now confused AND aggravated, I walked past him and picked up two jugs of milk in my hands, tucking the bag under my arm. As I walked to the register, I noticed him moving in my peripheral vision—this zealot was FOLLOWING ME TO THE REGISTER. Cue my shift from aggravated to fully pissed. As a light-skinned black woman, I can’t say that I can remember an instance in my life where someone had profiled me; but as I had a short, natural hairstyle and was wearing a bandanna and some less than pristine casual clothes (I was in the middle of housekeeping and have no time to change if I was to get to the store before closing), I had the niggling suspicion that this was to be my initiation. “Officer Friendly” (sarcasm sign raised high) had the unmitigated gall to stand at the register two lines away from me and watch my transaction with the cashier. In the course of it, I asked my cashier if the manager was available (she was not) and who was responsible for hiring the store security and if they were available. Upon being told that no manager was available at the time, I complained about the treatment I had just been subjected to, making sure the officer could clearly hear that I was not planning to meekly let this slide. After completing my purchase (and making sure that my items were bagged in the cloth tote I had brought with me), the officer precedes me out of the store. Since he seems so concerned inside the store about me being a potential thief, I decided to show him my two gallons of milk and my receipt at the door despite him watching me fully and legally complete my transaction. The officer proceeds to exhibit the most belligerent behavior I’ve ever seen, telling me to stop “shoving” the receipt in his face and pointing to a photocopied paper side outside the store about checking large bags upon entering the store. He then proceeds to tell me about this “concealment” statute in Louisiana state law that implies that the mere action of placing my groceries in an opaque storage container displayed intent to steal and was a detainable offense—i.e., I could be arrested for carrying two jugs of milk in a canvas bag, even if I was carrying them to the register for payment. At this point I take a pen from my purse and ask for his name and badge number so that I can not only report this unnecessarily abusive treatment to the store manager AND his immediate superior, but to prevent me from doing something out of my immense anger that would be a bigger offense than stealing and get me arrested after all. He angrily complied, threatens me with the statute again and storms off back into the store.

I leave with the information and the intent to look up the statute as soon as I get home, as well as return to the store the next morning to enlighten the manager about the interaction. Of course, it takes me a few minutes to calm myself enough to safely drive home. QUITE a few minutes. But I check the web and, sure enough, my state in its infinite wisdom drafted the following statute (as it pertained to my given situation):

RS 14:67.10
A. Theft of goods is the misappropriation or taking of anything of value which is held for sale by a merchant, either without the consent of the merchant to the misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practices, or representations. An intent to deprive the merchant permanently of whatever may be the subject of the misappropriation or taking is essential and may be inferred when a person:
(1) Intentionally conceals, on his person or otherwise, goods held for sale.
(3) Transfers goods from one container or package to another or places goods in any container, package, or wrapping in a manner to avoid detection.

(This is the same state that has statutes on thefts of crawfish, alligator and anhydrous ammonia. Not to mention one actually titled “Cheating and Swindling.” Our politicians CAN’T know they signed this into law….)

So basically, using anything outside of a basket or my bare hands to carry groceries around the store—even including TO THE REGISTER—can be called shoplifting or “theft of goods” by an officer depending on their estimation and/or mood. Being on the fairer-skinned side of Black (not to mention the more upstanding side of honesty), I am not accustomed to being profiled, nor the feelings of anger, annoyance and discomfiture that go along with being accused of wrongdoing. What infuriated me most was the inference that even the appearance of intent to steal was cause enough for a jaded, narrow-minded quota-obsessed officer to arrest me. Me—the type of person who will turn back to the register for a missed item or even go back to a store if undercharged—or even not charged at all. I realize that the officer had no way of knowing that by looking at me; then again, outside of my sweats and natural hair (read: short Afro), I don’t think anything about me screamed “shoplifter.” Well, I’m guessing my Afro did, as I have seen many a bedraggled non-black shopper in similar attire not get hassled for their canvas shopping bags. I realize that back in the 1950s people actually dressed up to shop but it will be a cold summer in New Orleans if I have to put on a flouncy dress and pumps to go buy some milk and not get harassed.

I was not able to return to the store the following day; in fact it was quite a while before I was able to get to the store. When I did go, I stood in front of the empty manager’s office virtually ignored for at least 20 minutes until a cashier asked if they could help me. I asked if the manager was in, and of course the answer was no. I then got the manager’s name and asked what her regular hours were. I was told that she usually comes in to the store around 8 am and is there until 12 noon on most days. I have not returned to that store since.

I may go back one day to ask about their bag policy and whether or not that extends to the use of environmentally-friendly shopping bags, and to let her know the perils of hiring overzealous security with regard to her business. I honestly believe that if the manager knew what happened, they would recognize the potential negative impact such an event could have on their profit margin and community image. I know many of my friends who read my Facebook blasts who will no longer (or even never) frequent that establishment, and while it is not my goal to penalize a business because of one shortsighted contract employee, I would prefer my shopping experience to be hassle-free. Even if that means paying a few more dollars for a gallon of milk.

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