"You're Black, You Must be a Thief"

by rickykoch1 on October 9, 2015 - 7:52am



Daniel Tencer wrote the article titled “Shoppers Customer Searched Because Employee Thought 'Black People Are Thieves': Ruling,” which was published on October 8th, 2015 on the Huffington Post. One night in May of 2011, in a town in Toronto, a black women by the name of Mary McCarthy went to go buy some mouthwash at her local Shoppers Drug Mart. McCarthy had written down what type of mouthwash she had to buy, when she got to the store, she pulled out her piece of paper and then put the paper back in her bag and then put her bag down. One of the employees named Ujjaijini Balachandra who was working that night was suspicious about McCarthy. When Ujjaijini saw that suspicious act, she immediately asked to search through McCarthy’s bag. At first McCarthy refused but then she let her looked through her bag. When dealing with shoplifting, there is a certain procedure that must be done but Ujjaijini Balachandra claimed she did not follow proper procedures because the incident took place after midnight however when McCarthy paid for her mouthwash, on her receipt it says that she paid for her mouthwash at 10:29pm. Obviously the incident took place before midnight so Ujjaijini Balachandra didn't follow proper procedures and she had no right to rummage through McCarthy’s bag. McCarthy went to court but decided not to press charges. This was a very courageous move to make, considering this was a very racist act directed towards the color of her skin. Ujjaijini Balachandra no longer works at the store.  



I feel extremely sorry and am saddened for Mary McCarthy. All she wants to do is live her life without always being interrogated or have people following her every move, wondering if she’ll steal something. Not only is it racist but it is also extremely ignorant. Ujjaijini Balachandra could have given Mary the benefit of the doubt, but instead she jumped to conclusion. Anyone without any in-depth knowledge about racism will view this as racist and it is. This can be linked to the in class reading called “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity” written by Audrey Smedley. In one of her paragraphs, called “‘Race’ as Identity,” she talks about how African Americans in the United States after the Civil War had to cope with being known as the lowest status group in American society and that Native Americans had to reinvent their identities. The Americans really emphasized on race. She also says that African Americans are often described and identify as being culturally backwards, prone to violence, morally corrupt, etc.. We shouldn't link black people to be thieves. There are many thieves out there, many who are of different color but we put so much emphasis on blacks being thieves and I think this needs to stop. One strength of this article is, that McCarthy took this to court. I’m sure this wasn’t the only time McCarthy encountered this type of situation and I think McCarthy was at her tipping point and she finally decided to do something about it. If I was constantly getting labelled for doing something I didn’t, I would do the same thing. I’m sad that McCarthy didn't press charges because what Ujjaijini Balachandra was not okay. This isn't something you can just brush off but if McCarthy is okay with it, then good for her. She is a very courageous and strong women for looking the other way. One weakness would be that they didn't include the interview dialogue with Mary McCarthy or Ujjaijini Balachandra. I would've really liked to see how McCarthy and Ujjaijini Balachandra described the incident and how they were feeling. I strongly believe we should stop labelling people and especially stop judging people based on their skin color. It’s bad enough other people do it to them but you don’t have to be one of them. A lot more people should give people the benefit of the doubt. I personally haven’t been through anything that Mary has and I hope that I won’t have to. I know that Mary has it worse than I do because she is African American. It makes me mad when people judge other people based on their skin color. Skin color isn’t something you can change. When you judge someone based on their skin, you’re judging something they can’t change and it’s like you're shaming them because they are that color. They didn't chose to be that color. You can do a study that lasts a few hours but a few hours won’t do anything. The African Americans live through racism and discrimination every day and to say “oh now I know how you feel” is an understatement. In conclusion, think before you label someone and remember, we are all built the same inside. 


Tencer, D (2015, October 8) “Shoppers Customer Searched Because Employee Thought 'Black People Are Thieves': Ruling.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/10/08/shoppers-drug-mart-discrimination-case_n_8265350.html  


Smedley, A. (2015) Race and the Construction of Human Identity. A. Nouvet, 381-204-LA gr.00545: The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism.


I find your topic very interesting and your respond very thoughtful and that inspired me to comment on your summary. There is clearly a problem of racial discrimination based on negative stereotypes promoting in society Black people as poorer, less educated, dangerous and inclined to criminal actions. But where did those believes come from? An in-class reading entitled “Race” and the Construction Human Identity answer this question by stating that the creation of race is the origin of the White privileges that come automatically hand-in-hand with racial discrimination and segregation. The colonists made new laws, in order to divide white slaves from Indians and Black ones, because they feared the slaves to revolt against their authority. Therefore, White slaves and White poor were less likely to take part in a future revolution. Consequently, with the constant arrival of new laws reducing the rights of visible and racial minorities, White skin became a social status referring to a high-status where wealth, power, opportunity and privileges abound. This mentality leads to negative prejudices such as being poorer, less intelligent, less successful and therefore more incline to commit illegal actions, which became associated with . Stilling is often associated with people with darker skin color. Even if it does not seem reasonable or rational; this is a common belief that infected a lot of minds such as the lady named Ujjaijini Balachandra, working in the store. The employee violated the store policies because she suspected a black woman of stilling products of the store. I noticed an interesting fact that confused me at first sight. The lady that targeted McCarthy as a suspicious woman has a name that does not sound American. That indicates that she is probably part of a minority group and even if she is, she still adopted racist ideas and attitudes. Consequently, it shows that no one is immune to adhere to racial stereotypes. Furthermore, I really like your historical link based on the same article, stating that the abolition of slavery did increased Blacks’ rights without abolishing the existence of racism that many people are still victim of today. To conclude, I would add that it is important to denounce racial injustice and moreover to emphasis the fact that human are ‘universal’ in their diversity. This may help people to consider differences as a positive thing and to appreciate and embrace it as a humanity; instead of reinforcing negative stereotypes that hurt those who are not part of the dominant group-perceived as the normality.

Smedley, A. (1998). "Race" and the construction of human identity. Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Virginia Commonwealth University.