I spent the summer working at a store that sold bath and beauty products and had an all-female staff. I loved it—my job was helping women find the perfect scent, helping men find gifts for their wives or girlfriends and helping little girls reach the big mirror so they could carefully put on lip gloss.
If I could change one part of the job, I would change the hearts of my co-workers.
One typical day, a Somali woman and her daughter, both dressed in traditional hijabs, walked into the store. I greeted them, as I would with any other customer, and saw the other women working roll their eyes. The little girl was adorable—she was fluttering back and forth between bottles of glitter and lipstick, asking me “What does this do?” “How much does this cost?” Soon enough, the two came to the register, checked out and left the store with a smile.
I turned to my coworkers, smiled and started chatting about how cute that little girl was. They didn’t agree.
“The Somalians [sic] that come in here are always so bossy,” my manager said. “They’re always saying ‘how much? how much?’, grabbing stuff and putting it back in the wrong place. Even that little girl was bossing you around!”
“Everytime they come in, I get worried they’re going to stick stuff in their wraps and steal it,” said another employee.
I was shocked—I didn’t agree at all. That family was sweet. I knew they didn’t steal, and I hadn’t felt bossed around in the least. Sure, they had asked me the prices of some things, but sometimes the price tags are hard to find, and it’s not just Somalis that need help finding them sometimes.
Of course, I was too scared to say any of this. I was the new girl, I’d only been working there about three weeks. So I quickly slipped into the back to grab some perfumes to restock.
Not an hour later, both the women I was working with were discussing the book “Heaven Is For Real” and talking about the awesome power of God.
I wish I could say this was a one-time-only experience, a fluke accident, but it wasn’t. When Somalis came in, there were mocking voices mimicking ‘how much, how much?’ in thick accents and rolled eyes. When Hispanics came in, jokes were made again.
It hurt me—it still hurts me when I think about it. Not only because of the actions of my co-workers, but because of my actions as well. Not once did I stand up for the people they were making fun of, even though I knew I should. I chickened out and held my tongue.
How can we, as Christians, proclaim the greatness of God’s love for us, and in the next moment, tear down a group of his beloved children? How is it so easy for us to categorize people based on color or background when we cannot even begin to understand the way God sees each of us? How could I have stood back and let this hatred go on?
Jesus did not say ‘Love thy neighbor of thy similar color.’ Love thy neighbor, period. Love them black, love them white, love them brown, yellow, red and blue. Only then can we even begin to comprehend how God loves each and every one of us.