It was raining, I walked out of my car with my girlfriend’s oversized hoodie on so I wouldn’t get soaked. I ran into the mall past a security guard. She must have thought I looked rather suspicious. Was it the hoodie? Was it that I wore the hood? Was it that it was oversized? Was it the last name on the back? Surely it wasn’t that the hoodie also had a tennis racket on it.
I watched from my periphery as she followed me into the mall and I felt her presence behind me when I stopped at the directory. I flipped the hood off of my head, maybe then she’d go away. I forgot I wore my hair curly.
She finally spoke to me–asked if I needed help finding where I was going. I asked for directions to Claire’s (of all places!) and she told me how to get there. I thank her and started to walk in that direction. She gave me a head start but continued to follow me.
I entered Claire’s where the clerk also grew suspicious of me. She too followed me around the store until I turned around and asked her where to find the chokers (I was headed to a 90s themed party that night). I then paid and started to walk out, only to stop in shock at seeing that security guard waiting for me at the Claire’s exit.
This wasn’t the first time. Having grown up a minority, you’re suspicious all the time.
But…I am a med student, I thought, trying to, in my head, justify the hard work I put in every day to not be perceived this way, to simply be another person walking into the mall. I work hard every day to shed the stereotypes–to become someone that people see and don’t automatically think lazy or criminal.
Should I wear my white coat everywhere?