Grocery Stores and Racism

Since I have not yet set up grocery store delivery I recruited my Nigerian friend M., who is studying to be a priest and a social worker, to go with me to Tesco, the big supermarket. First of all he knows how to get there by bus, and second of all he can carry heavy stuff, unlike me!

I was upset to learn from M. that he has experienced racism here in Poland. He says sometimes people laugh at him. He noticed some people in a car doing it while were on the bus. And he told me that one time when he was riding his bike some young men starting kicking it and calling him black and telling him to go home. Sounds upsettingly familiar to an American ear. I thought (not an original thought, but still, I thought it) about how I can be incognito as a Jew and sometimes be privy to what people really think, while he can never pretend not to be black. I thought about how just being with him on the bus or in a store people might be judging me, and how awful that was. After mentioning the taunting he said, “It’s ok.” And I said, “No, it’s not ok.” And I started to tell him what I had been thinking, but in French so people would not understand, and he said, “Don’t speak Polish, speak English.” And I said, ““I was not speaking Polish. I was speaking French. You may have been hearing in Polish but I was speaking French!”

The grocery store: They had only one bottle of organic milk and I got it. The had zero decaf coffee. They did have gluten free bread but I did not see any gluten free crackers but I probably did not know where to look.

It’s going to take getting used to not having the products I am used to for a long time. I am used to my Schär Sourdough Deli bread with Teddy’s Chunky Peanut Butter and Trader Joe’s no sugar jam. I will also miss my Hu Kitchen Coconut Sugar chocolate bars when they run out (care package anyone?) but I assume there are many great Polish delicacies waiting to be discovered.

About ten years ago I met my friend Hyesung in the office in the high school the summer she moved to our town and offered to take her around because she was a newcomer. I showed her supermarkets, gave her the name of my hairdresser and doctor, and showed her where to park to take the T (subway) into Boston. When I was a newcomer my friend Jodi (whom I had known growing up) had done that for me. I wish someone would do that for me here. In fact, there should be a brigade of people worldwide who do that for each other!