After bringing his daughters along for a trip to Walmart, a Prince William County, Va., resident named Joseph was suspected by store security of possibly kidnapping his three young daughters. He is white. They are black. Consequently, a customer reported the father on the grounds that “something didn’t add up.” The daughters, a f4-year-old and a pair of twins who are 2-years-old, live at home with their mother, Keana, who is Black, and Joseph. The couple has been married for ten years, and the Walmart incident is not the first time they have experienced difficulty for the physical appearance of their children.
When Joseph and his wife left Walmart to return home, a Prince William County police officer stood outside their house waiting. Joseph recalls, “He asked us very sincerely, ‘Hey, I was sent here by Walmart security. I just need to make sure that the children that you have are your own.” In the midst of having their parental identity verified, Keana was “dumbfounded,” saying “I sat there for a minute and I thought, 'Did he just ask us if these were our kids knowing what we went through to have our children?'"
The Walmart incident, which occurred earlier this month, has spread like wildfire on YouTube and blogs. Likewise, any online article that covers the controversial event is teaming with comments ranging in sentiments from “How could America still be so ignorant!” to “That couple should be glad their children are being looked after, how ungrateful.” Indeed, the couple has said they will no longer be shopping at Walmart.
Despite the varied reactions, I suggest we take a step back, and analyze the situation on a deeper level. Walmart did not cause the relationship between three little girls and their father to be questioned, nor did the security officer doing his job or the worried customer who falsely believed she had reported a kidnapping. Rather, this occurrence is the result of a close-minded view of race, something that we all are guilty of. We can belittle the people of Walmart for not realizing that interracial couples and mixed-race children exist, or rebuke the parents for how they reacted to the issue, but the better response is to ask: What are some of the similar ways that I am insensitive to race? Or gender? Or class? (If you are not sure, try asking your friends of other races, genders, or classes).
Taking collective responsibility for personal prejudices is a lot more effective than placing blame on a few misguided individuals at Walmart, individuals such as the worried customer, dutiful security guard, and others whose actions are deemed racist exist within a larger system of “race” — a system that we outside the Walmart incident are a part of and can change.