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Why Can't We Have Just One Halloween That's Not Mired In Racist Bullshit?

By Vivian Kane | Miscellaneous | November 1, 2016 | Comments ()

By Vivian Kane | Miscellaneous | November 1, 2016 |


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November 1st is usually when we can start to expect the celebrity Halloween costume apologies to start rolling in. As we wait people to start giving their sorries for their racism and their Harambes and whatnot, one Texas Spirit Halloween Store has apparently called dibs on the first big public outrage story.

It started when one man wanted to return a defective lightbulb.

I get it, they’re a seasonal store, so after-the-holiday returns would probably get them a lot of sweaty wigs with the tags still on. But that interaction sounds like some terrible customer service. Still, at this point, it’s just the story of a man and his bulb.

Moisés Chiullán says that from the moment he opened his mouth, the two screaming clerks would “tag-team talking over me and spitting back” about how he needs to be “respectful.”

Later, Chiullán told the story on his Facebook page, where he included this insert.

I should mention that as an Indeterminable Ethnic my entire life, and having grown up in suburban Texas in a similar type of city, this set off alarm bells, coming from middle-aged-to-older white Texan women with a pronounced accent and a sneering look of “you are beneath me, mutt boy” on both faces when they would look me in the eye. I know this because I’ve experienced it in stores, schools, extracurricular events, and countless other places my whole life. Despite all of it, I love where I’m from despite those that give us a bad reputation as hateful, racist, small-minded, majority white people.

I know some friends of mine (who are or are not also Trump supporters) will now accuse me of “profiling” these women. This is me identifying my *being* profiled. I was being given the “you don’t look like you deserve our respect” treatment, where I owed them submission and obeisance, and they could treat me however they wanted because they were Better Americans. They couldn’t tell if I was Hispanic or Muslim or both, but I was Definitely Not A Real American. I don’t need to “imagine” nor “make up” nor “invent” an assumption, this was trademark profiling and entitled poor treatment of The Other.

So Chiullán, still live tweeting the experience at this point, moved down the counter to call the corporate number listed on Spirit’s website.

So everything’s fine, right? I just told you a boring story about some bad customer service from some racist Spirit Store ladies? Yup, seems like it. Until Chiullán left the store.

THEY CALLED THE FREAKING COPS ON HIM.

As I approach my vehicle, as I reach for the door, I hear

“STOP WHERE YOU ARE, SIR. ROUND ROCK POLICE, PLEASE PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM AND BACK AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE.”

My heart drops out of my chest and I turn to see two squad cars and four cops with their hands “at ready” on their sidearms, other hand outstretched and open. I put my hands up where they can see them and back away as instructed. Is see two other cops approaching from the other side, one an elder Police Chaplain.

Yes, the clerks invited to call their HQ from the store, then while he was on hold, called the police to arrest him once he left.

Chiullán called that district manager (he wasn’t going to go see him, as planned, because he decided it wouldn’t exactly be surprising if that office had police waiting too), who was “horrified” and told him “Texas has been…difficult…this year.” One of the police officers joked that “this is what Yelp is for.”

It’s the kind of story that could have turned out so differently, tragically differently, and it’s nice to be able to crack even half-jokes once everybody’s sure no one’s getting arrested or worse. But it’s important to hear these stories until it sinks in for everyone that these are not individual happenings. They’re the product of the unrelenting, constant racism that exists.

I tried to inject some humor into that section because here, about four hours later, I’m still numb and in shock that any of this happened. Again, if you have the inclination to think I “asked for” this, or intimidated or frightened the women behind the register, I’m still asking myself the same thing and bawling my eyes out in unpredictable waves. How did I ask for this? What did I do to earn having a half dozen cops show up to “teach me a lesson”? Was it what I was wearing? Being unshaven? Just how slight was the accent that comes natural when I don’t code switch? How do I avoid this in the future? Do I just go nowhere and hide? And yes, what would have happened if I were black? Did I get profiled as a Level 3 Threat and a difference in skin color or tone would have me classified as Level 10? What can I do to not have my wife look like she’s going to have a heart attack when I pick her up from work, not understanding what I could have done to prevent this.

Chiullán mentioned the possibility of legal action, against both the parent company and the two clerks who filed a false police report. He had to sign a Criminal Trespass Warrant against himself, and the district manager told him “ordinarily he’d fire both employees on the spot, but he and they are both ‘out of jobs in two days anyway.’” Those last two items don’t sit great with him.

I want the warrant rescinded on the principle that *that* is not how we do business nor conduct ourselves in the United States of America. I don’t think that’s unreasonable or crazy. I want a public apology and reasonable corrective action taken by Spirit Halloween and Spencer Gifts, simple as that. I’m taking steps to make sure that, if they don’t care now, that they’re *embarrassed* into caring or acting.

While you’re waiting for all the other Halloween apologies, you can read Moisés Chiullán’s full account (and there’s a lot more there) on Facebook, as well as via the Twitter thread.


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