My Receipt Was Not Good Enough

On my second day in the new town, I went to Best Buy to buy a telephone. In the store, I asked a salesperson, “Do you have old fashioned telephones as opposed to cellular phones?” He knew exactly what I meant and pointed me in the right direction.

I have a landline in my new apartment because, turns out, my cell phone connection is really shitty in this place. I will never know that phone number but the phone I bought will magically connect to my cell phone. I haven’t set it up yet but I did read the box thoroughly. 

I like electronics. I’m alone in a new town. My impulse control is nonexistent.

After I picked up a phone, I saw a PlayStation 4 and I thought, man, I want one so I bought one, and there was some promotion going on where a video game called Killzone, I think, was free! I like free things.

I paid for everything with a friendly salesperson in the video game area because that’s what you have to do with certain items. Then I went to the bathroom and then I headed for the front of the store. Now, the game was still in its security case. When I got to the front, I showed my receipt for the case to be removed. The young man studied my receipt like it was the most important document he had ever seen. My skin started prickling because I knew something really frustrating was about to happen. I just knew. Anyone who has been racially profiled knows that feeling.

He set the receipt down, still holding on to my bag of purchases, and called for the salesperson who had sold me my stuff. 

I have NEVER in my life experienced something like this. My receipt was right there. My purchases were plainly identified. For whatever reason, that was not proof enough? 
I asked him what the problem was and he ignored me. I asked to speak to a manager and he ignored me. He literally acted like I was not there. I was calm and quiet. I shouldn’t even have to note my demeanor but nonetheless, there it is. An older couple strolled out of the store, set off the alarm, and he quickly deactivated the security device on their purchase and waved them out of the store so that was also infuriating. 
Because I thought he might have been confused, I explained that the video game was part of a promotional package I had purchased. He ignored me.
All the while, I was on Twitter because I was so frustrated. I was kind of vague about what I was buying and later this would become a Thing because people are the worst. I was being vague because I was embarrassed to be 39 years old, buying a Play Station. I felt guilty for being so consumeristic. I am struggling with no longer being broke all the time and what that allows me to do. I was also feeling awkward because I only use my Play Station 3 to watch movies and Netflix and play Lumines so the purchase felt extra ridiculous.  (As an aside, this makes my brothers so mad and I like that part.) There’s no fucking conspiracy here. I just didn’t feel like telling the Internet what I was buying.
Meanwhile, in the store, the young man kept requesting the salesperson who made my sale on the intercom. This went on for quite some time. He continued to ignore me. During this entire exchange, I don’t think he said a single word to me. It was like I wasn’t even there. 
The salesman finally came to the front of the store and verified  I had indeed made this purchase. He pointed to the video game and said, “That is on the receipt,” and the young man said, “I know, but…”  
Let me repeat: My receipt was not good enough. I have never heard of needing to have a salesperson verify a purchase when a receipt has been proffered but I shouldn’t be surprised. The rules are always different when shopping/driving/walking/existing while black. The experience was particularly galling because this happened over what was both a significant and an insignificant amount of money. 
Finally, he removed the security case from the video game and handed me my receipt which I snatched out of his hand because I finally had enough. I said, “I just spent $700 dollars in this store. Are you serious?” And I walked out. He still had not acknowledged or spoken to me. It was humiliating to stand there, being treated like a common criminal, everyone staring like you’ve done something wrong. Racism was absolutely at work.
Some conservative website picked up my tweets and for the past day, I’ve received all manner of bullshit. The e-mails I’ve received are appalling. The tweets directed at me are appalling. There are a great many amateur investigators wanting me to explain the situation in detail. They are contorting themselves to find a reason why race was not a factor in this situation. Then there are the people with their “race card” jokes, and the homophobes and the jokers who talk about how they have been asked to show their receipts and they’re white so they, too, must be victims of racism. It would be more frustrating to deal with if these people weren’t so banal and predictable. 

One person asked, “Who is Roxane Gay?” Who indeed? I could drop some science on who I am (see: New York Times, NPR, The Guardian), but for the sake of this incident, I am just a woman who was trying to waste her money in peace.

A reporter from CNN asked if I wanted to do a phone interview about the incident and I declined. I was venting on Twitter, not trying to be part of a news story.
I was venting on Twitter because the situation was infuriating BUT I was still mindful of how privileged I am. I was mindful that racial profiling happens every single day, in far more distressing ways. I was mindful of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride and Eric Garner who lost their lives to racial profiling. Of course I was venting on a social network. It was the appropriate venue for being angry about a trifling incident of racial profiling. 
I am not writing this to explain myself. Know that.