“Bonjour mademoiselle,” said the cashier.
“14.50 Euros s’il vous plait.”
“Par carte, s’il vous plait,” I said.
As soon as I said I wanted to pay with a card, he asked me for ID. He justified it by saying it was standard procedure to have picture ID for all credit card transactions – for security reasons.
How racist! I bet he doesn’t ask white people for ID when they want to pay with a credit card.
Then I gave him my passport and he exclaimed great surprise at my having a Bank of America credit card, but a Zimbabwean passport. As the credit card reader was processing my card, he talked about how he wanted to travel and how he thought it was great that I had the courage to travel so far from home.
After I signed the receipt and bagged my groceries (they don’t do it for you here!), he said, “bon journée” and I went on my way
I wondered if he was racist in asking for my ID as I walked back home. But the man was so nice and chatty after, he couldn’t possibly be a racist. He was also quite polite when he asked me for ID. Maybe it really was routine to do that? Maybe I am over-reacting? What is a racist anyways?
That was a question I had never asked, “What is a racist anyway?”
I realized that I had no idea what the word “racist” meant. None at all. I had used it several times when I felt there was an injustice towards people of color, but have never really thought about what it meant.
I got home, arranged my groceries and started to do some research, starting with the Oxford English Dictionary. A “racist” is:
“An advocate or supporter of racism; a person whose words or actions display prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of race. Also in extended use: a person who is prejudiced against people of other nationalities.”
Well, that doesn’t tell me anything. I guess I have to look up, “racism”.
“A belief that one’s own racial or ethnic group is superior, or that other such groups represent a threat to one’s cultural identity, racial integrity, or economic well-being; (also) a belief that the members of different racial or ethnic groups possess specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities, which can be compared and evaluated. Hence: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of other racial or ethnic groups (or, more widely, of other nationalities), esp. based on such beliefs”
If I use this definition: can I truly say that when the cashier asked me for ID, he was thinking that white people are superior to me or that I was a threat to him? Could he have had a preconceived opinion of black people being more likely to be credit card thieves? Sure. Does that make him racist? I have no idea.