The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

This morning, I was standing in line to check out my groceries at our local Giant grocery store when the lady in front of me left the clerk checking out her groceries and went to pick something she had forgotten. There was no “excuse me” or “I hope you don’t mind if I pick something I forgot”. She just brushed by me like I was not there. I am not a confrontational person and so I chalked it down to lack of social skills. The woman came back after maybe two minutes and passed by like she had not inconvenienced anyone in the queue. After a minute before the grocery clerk could continue checking her out, she started yelling at a Latina lady with a dog in the next aisle, telling her that dogs are not allowed in the store. She them turned her anger on the checkout clerk and asked her why she allowed the woman to bring her dog in. I thought this was an interesting line of questioning since the clerk had nothing to do with the store policies and the woman was not being served by her. There were no signs informing patrons that animals were forbidden in the store. The clerk who was of Indian descent started panicking and told the rude woman that she had not seen the dog and that customer was not in her aisle so she had nothing to do with it. After ringing up the groceries and giving the customer her receipt, the woman yelled at her and said “American rules must be followed this is not South Asia”.

I was so shocked, I told the checkout clerk that the woman’s behavior was unacceptable and that what she just told her was wrong. The clerk was happy to have the customers on her side. I could not believe that this was really happening and that it was not on the “What Would You Do?” program. I actually looked around to see if there were cameras! The way that customer behaved made the checkout clerk feel helpless and powerless in the face of the microaggression. She was clearly a rich privileged white lady who saw the clerk as a lower class person.

The incident left me thinking about classism and the lack of respect that people get because of what they do. It happens to childcare providers too. I have heard stories of incidents whereby the parents drop off their children in the daycare centers and do not even bother to say good morning.

I wish that the slogan “the customer is always right” was not followed so rigidly.  Workers especially lower level workers such as store clerks, waiters/waitresses are subjected to abuse by patrons and customers because they know that they cannot fight back. I wish these establishments would put up signs that would encourage their patrons and customers to show respect to their workers as they are people who are working hard to make and honest living.


One thought on “The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

  1. Evelena says:


    Thanks for sharing this experience. I think this woman’s behavior was not only a blatant disrespect for individuals from different ethnic backgrounds but a reflection of self-proclaimed cultural dominants. Obviously she felt inferior to none and was unwilling to recognize how her actions were inappropriate to say the least. Although the clerk evoked the support of others during this time of embarrassment, it is hard to determine how this experience affected her in the long run and if her responses to such prejudices in the future would evoke a more aggressive response.


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