Buying a Rolex is supposed to be a happy occasion. Especially for the Milwaukee Bucks’ John Henson. He’s 24. He’s a baller. He has some cash to burn. And it would have been his first Rolex. All this guy wanted was to make a big purchase and for his friends to be there to join in the revelry. But as the newly released 911 tape of the incident demonstrates, because Henson is black, all fun must end with the police being called.
Black people can't seem to do much without the police being called. You can’t be loud. You can’t ride a bike. You can’t use an old golf club as a cane. You can’t kiki on the wine train. You can’t do anything without the taint of racism creeping along to stink up what should be pleasant experiences (walking, shopping, cycling, wine—racism ruined wine, y’all!), and no amount of tolerance-scented Febreze will get that odor out once it’s in there. You just have to live with the humiliating smell.
Causing the stench this time were the folks at Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers in Whitefish Bay, Wis., who didn’t want to sell Henson a Rolex because he dared to call the store and ask what time they closed, according to a 911 call obtained by WTMJ-TV. His phone call is allegedly what prompted the jewelers to call the police, lock their doors and pretend to be closed while a bewildered Henson meandered around outside.
According to the 911 call last Monday, the jewelers asked police if they could come to the store because of “suspicious” calls they’d received asking for the closing time. They said the caller didn’t sound like a “legitimate” customer—whatever that means. (It means he “sounded” black, and thus illegitimate. Everyone knows that black people hate nice jewelry and therefore never purchase it ever; therefore, why would they ever be customers? #Sarcasm.)
Said a store employee during the 911 call as Henson stood outside:
The officer told us if they came back, we’re supposed to call again. They’re at our front door now and we’re not letting them in. I am hiding in the office. I don’t want them to see me out there. We’re pretending like we’re closed. They’re looking in the window. They’re just kind of pacing back and forth. I don’t feel comfortable letting them in. I just really don’t at all.
The store workers claimed that they’d called the police on these “suspicious” suspects before and that police told them the suspects were driving an SUV that may have been stolen. The plates, though, were dealer plates from a brand-new car that Henson had recently purchased. WTMJ-TV reported that when police had called the car dealership to find out who the plates belonged to—adding the detail that four black males were in the car—the dealership claimed that was “not our normal clientele.”
But wait. It gets more ridiculous.
The police arrived, talked to Henson and then asked that the store employee come to the front and open the door. The employee refused.
911 operator: I have officers there asking you to come to the front door, if you would, please?
Store employee: Why? I don’t feel like it. Why do I have to come to the door? Can the officer come to the back? I’m not going to the front door.
Why? Because the employee is frightened by all that blackness, I guess. Perhaps it’s because, even with the police presence, black people are superhumans who can defy police and live to tell the tale. Except they aren’t and often don’t. Maybe it’s because Henson, who is a 6-foot-11 giant and looks like a professional athlete, fits the profile? (The profile is “black.”) Eventually Henson did get to come inside the store, but the store employee insisted that the police officer stay while Henson shopped. The officer didn’t.
Henson left shortly after what was probably a fairly humiliating experience. All this because he wanted to buy a very expensive watch.
The store owner, upon learning of the incident and realizing that the store had ruined the NBA player’s day, called this “a big misunderstanding” and “apologized personally to Henson.” But the damage was done. Apologies are nice, but they don’t change the experience of getting locked out of a jewelry store because an employee decided that black equals dangerous. Henson reportedly called the incident “surreal.”
The irrationality of racism destroys rational thought. In the case of Henson, all the clerk had to do was hear a black person’s voice, and immediately, vivid thoughts of robbery went through her head, prompting a call to the police. It doesn’t matter that no black people had robbed the store before or that the last robber of recent memory, according to news reports, was white—and that was of a different store within the jewelry chain.
A few black men, one freakishly tall, couldn’t be anything but criminals because racism says that’s what black people are. Not human beings. Not individuals. Not people who can afford nice things. They couldn’t have been customers because the irrationality of racism says that doesn’t make sense.