Radio — A community challenging racial profiling in stores

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Ann Divine and Pastor Lennett Anderson about the racial profiling that Black people and other racialized people often experience in stores — both in general, and about the specific case of Andrella David — and what one community is doing to try to make things different.

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In 2009, Andrella David stopped in a Sobey’s grocery store near where she lives in Nova Scotia to buy some ice cream to take home for her daughter. She was waiting in line to pay when she heard someone shouting — something about “stealing” and “video” and “you people” — and she realized the yelling was at her. Publicly and vocally, a store official accused her of shoplifting and said a number of derogatory and disrespectful things, and then claimed they had her on tape. Knowing full well she had done nothing of the kind, she demanded to see the tape. And other than the fact both she and the woman on the video were Black, they looked nothing alike.

David took Sobey’s to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and after a lengthy process — which involved a great deal of stress and many days of lost work to participate in the process — she received a ruling in her favour from a Board of Inquiry in 2015. In response, Sobey’s expressed concerns about the fairness of the process, and exercised its right to appeal, naming not just the Human Rights Commission but also Andrella David in that appeal, which guarantees she will face yet more stress, yet more time in the public eye, and yet more days of lost work — all because she was a target of racial profiling and decided to stand up for herself.

Ann Divine, one of today’s guests, is a management consultant, and in earlier years she worked as the manager for race relations, equity, and inclusion at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She and her colleagues at the commission published a ground-breaking study on consumer racial profiling in Nova Scotia in 2013. The study demonstrated what many Black (and other racialized) folks in the province (and, indeed, across the continent) already know: racial profiling in stores is widespread, and is quite traumatic for those profiled. It can include being followed by store personnel, being served slowly or not or not all, being harassed by other customers or by staff, being accused of theft, or a range of other experiences.

Pastor Lennett Anderson is the senior minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains, a historic African Nova Scotian community. Andrella David attends his church. Recently, the church community organized a rally at the Sobey’s store in question to tell the store that if it felt that it must appeal (rather than simply abiding by the ruling and instituting policies to prevent future racial profiling), it should at least remove Andrella David’s name from the suit and spare her more years of hardship. Sobey’s has so far refused. And beyond supporting a specific individual, the community is keen to draw broader attention to the issue in hopes that stores and policymakers will begin to make the changes that might make racist humiliation while shopping a thing of the past.

Divine and Anderson speak with me about the realities of racial profiling in consumer contexts, about Andrella David’s case in particular, and about efforts both to support her and to bring attention to the issue more broadly.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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