When the what I call, ‘ignorant in action’ walk among us, it always makes for an interesting if at least enlightening day, enlightening because instead of being furious and letting it become a bothersome burden on my mind, I find it’s better to let it go and learn from it, by either writing or harping in a compassionate friend’s ear. Today I chose writing, well that and the fact that at this time most of my friend’s ears are already being chattered into by business clients.
I have Just returned from running up to the local grocery store to get sugar for my coffee, and of course while there ended up grabbing a few more items. Apparently there is either some kind of slow computer server issue with payments on the store’s end or my bank, either way my bank card had to be swiped three times because it had timed out the first two times I had swiped it through the card reader. The cashier and I, both verified that my account wasn’t going to be charged more than once too with a manager. Meanwhile the man behind me states loudly, “what’s the hold-up? Your LINK/Food stamps money is gone? You shouldn’t be buying beer anyways with my tax dollars.” Whoa, hold em up is my first thought, and especially since I don’t have a LINK/Food stamps, and by the grace of God (meaning I have been blessed and been able to provide without assistance, and nothing else towards those that have had to seek assistance), nor have I needed that assistance in the past or as of yet.
Secondly why would he assume that a red Visa Card is LINK, when the Illinois Link cards are another color, but regardless even if I was using a LINK card, reputable stores such as this major food store chain’s cash register will kick off the liquor sale for that card and the purchaser has to pay using another form of payment. Which therefore just by the card’s color one that eschews as if one is a great authority should have been wiser.
Third, what exactly was this uncouth-which is becoming a social norm in behavior, person’s reasoning to assume that I was using a LINK Card? Is there a new stigma that if one is Black and swipes a card you are on government assistance? Do I need to hold up my bank card showing the financial institution it is affiliated with as some kind of validation of my financial credibility, which is then suppose to be a validation of my character? Exactly why would that be anyone’s business on top of it?
The number of years I have worked retail for extra holiday pay and frankly for the most part, I enjoy the seasonal work. Working retail in the past part-time was very satisfying to me as well as a way to earn some extra income for wants and not needs. I got a store employee discount and as most of my friends know, I really do enjoy working with the general public, and I have NEVER made someone that is using a LINK, SNAP, or WIC feel like a lessor human-being for doing so. I have to tell you, we have a great number of people these days all across the racial spectrum on food stamps, so some need to get over their preconceived notion as to what a “LINK card user” looks like! Where I live because of the racial demographic being predominantly White, it’s not a hard guess as to what the “new/old face of government food assistance looks like as far as skin tone and frankly WHO cares? Until you observe for yourself, and can prove without a doubt that someone is abusing the system then give others the benefit of a doubt. They may be in a rough spot for the time being and are working on being independent of public assistance in the near future. Trust me I am well aware that there are those out there that abuse the system giving other users a bad name, and yes realistically I know that there are many others that don’t look at someone when they are having a small moment with a faulty payment system, or digging for change because perhaps they left their bank card at home make an assumption that because they are Black, Hispanic, or even “not so well dressed” need financial assistance. Yes, even I once was silently surprised when a very well dressed, down to their footwear, very discretely handed to me their link card at a major retailer I worked at the sold groceries and many other items. I could see the unease in their eyes as they looked at me, so I quickly swiped their card for them even though we have a card reader the customer is suppose to use. I just as discretely handed it back, while chattering away as I bagged as if nothing unusual about the way they handed me their card and mumbled their pin number for me. I wanted to tell them there is no shame in assistance when one has to use it to survive and I wish you a more prosperous future, but I respected their silence and need for discretion they felt to maintain their dignity. I also made note to myself that I shouldn’t have had a preconceived perception aka prejudice as to “the face of welfare”. What is welfare suppose to look like? Would I have been less surprised if that person was dressed shabby? Black? Hispanic? How about if it was a military personnel in my line?
Getting back to my personal experience today, I turned to the man, because I really am not in the mood to have anyone kill my joy today, and stated with a smile, “I think the LINK system is faster than either my bank’s servers today or this payment system the store is on, but no I don’t have a LINK card but if you do, and want to swipe for me, I’ll just get cash and pay you back.” Absolute stone silence, not a word, except for the smirk on the face of the cashier. There’s a time, place, and how to make constructive criticism or judgement, but I can not tolerate prejudice substantiated with assumptions, and gee imagine that since I’m one of those that is preconceived as being intolerant for my conservatism. Let me be clear her in conclusion; what perturbed me most, and led to this musing of mine, isn’t whether or not I had a LINK card, but the underlying reasoning for this person as well as many other’s I have heard myself in store lines grumbling and assuming someone’s “welfare card” isn’t working. When in all honesty that (LINK card), may not even be a factor in the transaction but it’s a visual fact they are of a “minority race”.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”~Matthew 7.
*Highlight blue hyperlinks go to USDA stats