I confessed my inadvertent shoplifting to my husband.
“If you were a black man, the police would be here hauling you in,” he remarked. “You might end up dead.”
This was the same day a grand jury failed to indict a white policeman for the choking death of an unarmed black man whose crime was selling individual cigarettes. Less than two weeks earlier, the Ferguson grand jury let another white officer off the hook for killing an unarmed black teenager who had recently stolen a pack of cigarillos. Two days before the Ferguson decision, a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun was shot to death within seconds by the responding white police officer. Earlier this summer, a black man who was inspecting a toy gun while browsing in Walmart was shot to death after alarmed shoppers called the police.
Each situation is different, of course. But the key difference is that they were black, and I am white. I do not have to think about clerks tailing me in stores. I can come and go without arousing suspicion. Even if I were somehow caught in the act with my purloined photos, I would be given the benefit of the doubt. I could buy a toy gun for my child and count on not being killed.
But Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and so many boys and men whose skin is darker than mine cannot. That’s the real crime.
I returned to CVS the next morning to pay for my photos.
“Thank you for your honesty,” said the clerk, smiling as he handed me the change.
I continued on with my day–another key difference between me and those whose days have been cut short.