Even before the election of Donald Trump, white people with money felt entitled to be obnoxious. After the election of Trump, they feel more entitled than ever because something something “Fuck your feelings.” This goes double when it comes to being obnoxious towards people using government programs like WIC or food stamps. Add race to the mix and you have all the ingredients for an ugly scene. Usually.
Early Saturday afternoon, I went with Maria, Jenny, and Kyle, my two baby mommas and our son, to the grocery store to do a little pre-Thanksgiving shopping. As it was the weekend before Turkey Day, the store was naturally crammed with people running about, stocking up on food for the impending holiday. Since I live in Virginia and Family 2.0 (as I sometimes not-fully-jokingly refer to them as) lives in New York, we don’t get to do a lot of stuff that other families take for granted so we were enjoying the novelty of going grocery shopping together.
After rounding up our various foodstuffs, we got on line and Maria and Jenny starting sorting through their WIC coupons to hand to the cashier. They don’t generally use their WIC coupons at this particular grocery store because, for some reason, they always have an issue. This time was no different and the cashier got confused, turning a simple transaction into a 15-20 minute ordeal.
Knowing that this was going to take a while, the cashier told a woman getting on the line that there was going to be a delay and perhaps she should go to another line so she wouldn’t be stuck waiting. Jenny overheard her husband complain that they would have to wait anywhere so she should just stay on this line. Neither Maria or I saw or heard him.
I had moved away from the register and both women, standing instead by Kyle in the cart off to the side. A few minutes later, the cashier, still having issues, called for a manager’s key to make a correction. Shortly after this, I look up and I see a man standing between Maria and Jenny, right in their personal space, looking over the transaction. Well dressed, well groomed, middle-aged, white, and, as I said, right up in their business, I assumed he was a manager of some kind helping straighten out the issue. Maria thought the same thing because she hadn’t seen him before that. Jenny, on the other hand, knew exactly who he was.
After a minute, he walked back towards his wife and started bitching about how “these people have program after program after fucking program.” And he said it where he knew Jenny, who was standing closer to his wife, would hear him. An entitled prick complaining about entitlements. The definition of white privilege.
Neither Maria nor I heard what Mr. White Privilege had said but we both realized that he wasn’t a manager at the same time. Maria was pissed off that some random customer had invaded her personal space like that but I knew exactly what I had just seen: A bully marking his territory and I knew he would be back. A tall white guy with money versus two small Latina women using WIC? Oh, there was no way he was going to pass up the opportunity to publicly humiliate them. And that’s exactly what he tried to do.
The problem for him was that in the few minutes between him leaving and coming back, ready to make a scene, I had stepped in between Maria and Jenny and waited like a Trapdoor Spider.
Mr. Tough Guy pushed past his wife, already loudly complaining about the delay when I physically blocked his path. The look of confusion and shock on his face was truly delightful. Instead of two Latina women and a cashier to push around, a not-as-well dressed, not-as-well-groomed, but also white, also middle-aged, and, more importantly, noticeably larger man was in front of him, scowling. As a father of three and a former retail manager, I’m well practiced at conveying a world of displeasure with just an expression.
We exchanged a few words and I made it clear that not only was I with the two women and small child he was trying to publicly humiliate, I was more than happy to make an even larger, far more embarrassing scene if he kept it up. Like every bully before him, he immediately backed down when he realized that his “easy prey” wasn’t so easy. I had scared the shit out of him by getting right in his personal space the same way he had done to Maria and Jenny. Not so fun to have someone loom over you, especially when you were looking forward to picking on someone smaller than yourself.
After whining 3 or 4 times that he just wanted to get past me, I decided to let him save face and graciously let him by. He sulked over to the wall facing the register and stood there, sullen, as I stared at him.
And kept staring.
He bristled. “What?”
“Nothing”, as I kept staring.
It wasn’t an angry stare or anything like that. I just kept looking at him with a minimum of blinking until he buried his nose in his phone to avoid my gaze. He’d wanted to make other people uncomfortable for sport so I was making him profoundly uncomfortable. Think of it as a life lesson. At the very least, maybe he’ll hesitate the next time he decides to get his jollies from bullying someone he thinks is weaker.
Satisfied we wouldn’t be hearing another peep from the Privilege Patrol, we finished up our transaction and left, having a merry laugh at how 2 Latinas summoned their Level 44 White Man to smack down an asshole.
This is not just an amusing story about a privileged jerk being humiliated. It’s also more than just an article to cater to my ego (which hardly needs the help). This is about an obligation people with privilege have to confront those abusing theirs. Privilege and its abuses, white, male, hetero, economic, or otherwise, only exists as long as we who have it turn a blind eye to it. When we ignore men “grabbing them by the pussy”, we enable it. When we joke around and call each other “fags”, we make it acceptable. When we stay silent as a white man with money berates two women of color using WIC, we condone his behavior.
I was there this time to fight for my family. I’d like to think that next time someone will fight for them when I’m not.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.