– a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I usually stay away from topics such as stereotyping, racism, sexism, and etc, but I believe that I was wrongly stereotyped in a public place and I won’t be able to sleep without letting the world know how I feel at this very moment.
This is more than the stereotype I get upon entering my classroom and have my students assume that I am just another student instead of the professor. Or like the stereotype that I got in middle school and high school when people thought I was lying when I’d tell them that I was born in Paris, France—because apparently, there are no black people in Paris.
I’m talking about the type of stereotype that many women get on a daily basis. Women who are being labeled daily and have not the slightest idea that somewhere, someone is labeling them.
I’m talking about what I endured one afternoon as I went grocery shopping with my baby boy at Fry’s, a division of Kroger. I was purchasing a lot of baby food and other baby items, and as I began to put my items on the counter, the first thing the cashier said to me was, “will you be paying with the check?”
Now, I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me if I would be paying with a check, so I was completely lost.
“Excuse me?” I asked with furrowed eyebrows.
“Will you be paying with the check?” He asked again, confident in his question as if it was simply the routine.
“Uh? What check?” I asked. Now I was more than confused.
“WIC. The WIC check.” He cleared up.
“Actually, I am not.” I said, offended.
“Oh, sorry. So regular then?” His face turned red.
At that point I was offended and flabbergasted all at once. For those of you who do not know what WIC is:
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
Not only did he not greet me, but he automatically assumed that I had some sort of assistance from the government because what? I was shopping alone with a baby? I was buying lots of baby food/items? I’m a young black woman? I don’t want to make this a race issue, but I was clearly stereotyped. He hadn’t even rung up a single item, so I don’t understand why he needed to ask me that question to begin with. It’s not because I don’t have WIC that I was offended. I was offended because he made the assumption that I have WIC.
Every day, thousands of women rely on WIC to provide for their family and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I am fortunate to not have to rely on WIC, but even if I was to pay with a WIC check, why did he have to make a show out of it? There were people in line behind me watching the whole scene, and it was very uncomfortable. Why didn’t he just wait until it was time for me to pay? Eventually he would have found out my method of payment. Asking was totally inconsequential. Lucky for him, I hate confrontation and I tend to avoid it as much as possible. Plus, I hadn’t really processed what had happened until I left the store and got in the car to call my husband. When I told him what happened, I realized that I was not exaggerating. I took my thoughts to Twitter, and was surprised by the support I got from people.
I tend to let things such as this go, but I was advised not to let this one go. So I called the store manager and explained the whole situation. She was horrified and very much apologetic for the horrific experienced I had. It’s sad that we live in a world where people stereotype one another without even knowing them. It’s sad that he assumed that about me.
More than anything, it is sad that he didn’t think before speaking.
I hope that one day, we will live in a world where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a young black woman or Hispanic woman, or Asian woman with lots of baby food and a baby, pay for her own groceries.
This post was also published on The Huffington Post.