Another day, another white person siccing the police on an innocent black person. In today’s news that sounds a lot like yesterday’s news, an employee at an Alabama Hobby Lobby called the local authorities to report that a black man was in the store committing the crime of ... well ... no one seems to know.
The police said that the man was trespassing; the store manager first said that he “resembled” a thief. Then she said he was talking too loudly while he was outside the store. I think he was formally accused of “being black.”
Before reporting this story, I will openly admit that I am biased against Hobby Lobby. My prejudice has nothing to do with the chain’s attempt to dismantle Obamacare, its staunch conservatism or the CEO’s support of Donald Trump; it’s because, whenever I’m in Hobby Lobby, it just feels racist. I always expect to hear an announcement over the loudspeakers:
“Lynching on aisle 5. Lynching on 5.”
Hobby Lobby is the Cracker Barrel of retail stores. Where else could you buy a pirate’s chest, a wreath made of plastic daffodils, and 3 yards of turquoise felt? It also sells trinkets. White women who wear acid-washed mom jeans with elastic waistbands and no back pockets love trinkets. It’s like a swap meet for women named Laura. The only thing Lauras love more than Hobby Lobby is the Hallmark Channel and speaking to “the manager.”
Which brings us to Brian Spurlock’s Tuesday visit to the Hobby Lobby in Trussville, Ala.
Spurlock went to the craft superstore to return a Cricut cutting machine for his girlfriend. He had the receipt, the original packaging and everything that came with the item when he arrived at the store. Spurlock’s girlfriend says that she specifically asked Hobby Lobby’s employees if the item was returnable before she bought it, and they had informed her that it was.
“When I gave her [the cashier] the machine, she told me that she needed to check with the manager to see if the item was returnable,” Spurlock told The Root, apparently unaware that white women always need to speak to the manager. “The manager said she would have to check with corporate.”
The cashier returned to Spurlock and told him the manager was calling the store’s corporate office, as if Hobby Lobby has a staff of operators on standby waiting to approve trinket returns. The manager asked Spurlock to step aside and wait while she called Hobby Lobby’s Cricut Emergency Return Squad.
Hobby Lobby Laura was not calling “corporate.”
She was calling the police.
Spurlock says that he still didn’t think anything was wrong, even when a local law enforcement officer entered the store, walked up to him and asked for his identification. As customers looked on, Spurlock handed over his ID to the cop and asked what was the reason for this embarrassment.
“He said: ‘You’re about to be trespassing,’” Spurlock explained. “I still didn’t know what was going on. I figured, ‘OK, some stores do ask for ID when you return things.’”
But instead of taking Spurlock’s ID to the manager, the cop exited the store with the identification and went to his car.
“I still had no idea what they were doing. But now I realize he was running my name to check for warrants. I still wasn’t worried because I don’t have any,” said Spurlock.
Apparently finding no blemishes on Spurlock’s record, the cop returned and informed Spurlock that he should get his refund and leave the store before he was arrested for trespassing.
If that sounds a little bit like a fugitive slave patrol, you’d be right. Apparently, in Trussville, white people can just summon the police to check black people’s freedom papers.
“I asked the manager how I was trespassing,” Spurlock recounted. “She said I resembled someone who they had caught returning stolen items.”
Even though he had a receipt. And the items.
During the exchange, Spurlock called his girlfriend, Ashley Maddox, who had bought the items originally. After the manager processed the refund, Spurlock went to the parking lot where the cop was waiting for him.
“He told me not to drive the car because I didn’t have my license, only an ID,” Spurlock said.
Then Spurlock’s girlfriend, Ashley Maddox, showed up at the store. Ashley Maddox is a black woman. Black women don’t take this shit.
Maddox and another witness, Catrina Beverly, recorded video of the incident. On the video, when Maddox asks the manager why she called the cops, the employee states, “We were only following orders from our upper management.”
In the video, as Spurlock explains the situation, Hobby Laura threatens to eject him again, for talking too loudly. As they leave the store, the couple notice the same law enforcement officer, still outside, waiting.
Maddox and Spurlock would later call Hobby Lobby’s corporate office. The couple say that Hobby Lobby informed them that it is not its policy to require identification or corporate approval for in-store returns.
Hobby Lobby has not responded to The Root’s request for comment.
The company also didn’t announce a sale on felt-lined nooses in this week’s circular. But if you want to make one, I know just the place ..
As long as you don’t need to return anything.