Some time after midnight on Black Friday, a woman I know (for simplicity’s sake, I’ll call her Bailey) was waiting in line to ask a question at a well-known retailer. A woman in a Muslim head-scarf (call her Sally), clearly not recognizing there was a line, stepped up to the attendant and said, “I just have a quick question.”
Bailey, who isn’t known for her patience but tends to be extraordinarily clear-headed in stressful situations, informed Sally that everybody in the line was there to ask a question, and asked her to take her place behind the others who were waiting. Sally began to apologize and stepped away from the attendant, apparently intending to do just that–
When a man (call him Fred) standing behind Bailey blurted out, “Learn to wait in line! Are you even from this country?”
Now, Sally was certainly wrong to step to the front of the line without recognizing there were others waiting. But she was trying to correct her mistake. Fred’s outburst was pure cowardice–a racist remark disguised as indignation at someone he calculated would not strike back at him. Incidentally, he was right; Sally simply looked at him, embarrassment probably turning to fear as she wondered what else a tired, frustrated, belligerent fellow might do, and whether the others there would take his side.
Bailey, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate at all. She rounded on Fred and said, “Oh, no! We are not doing that here!”
Fred, taken aback, recovered himself quickly and decided to try the same tactic on Bailey. “What about you? Are you even from this country?” To Fred, apparently, anybody who is from this country should have no problem with prejudice toward Muslims.
But Bailey wasn’t intimidated (not much intimidates Bailey). “Of course I am!” she said. “But that doesn’t matter–you’re being racist, and we’re not doing that here!”
That shut Fred up. He made some noises of protest that he wasn’t being racist, but spluttered out when Bailey refused to back down. They asked their questions and went on with their shopping.
Bailey later met Sally and her family elsewhere in the store; as it turned out, they aren’t from this country, and that means precisely nothing, particularly to a retail establishment after midnight on Black Friday. They thanked her for standing up for Sally, and all went their separate ways a little better, I like to think, than before the confrontation.
It’s stories like these we should be telling each other about Black Friday, and every other day, at that. Because in the end, we won’t remember the riots–but we will remember the people who had the courage to stand up for us when we couldn’t stand up for ourselves.