Racism in Portsmouth, 2021

To the Editor:

When I moved to Portsmouth a few years ago I did not expect to encounter the ignorance of a white male in a truck pointing his index finger and thumb at me as if to shoot me while I was walking downtown, or a white woman knocking on my door because she could see that I was Black and questioned whether I had a right to be there, in my own home.

I had no idea I would experience racism while shopping with my grandson on March 14, 2021 shopping at Aeropostale in the Mall at Fox Run.

My grandson picked out some shirts rather quickly and I asked the retail representative (Michelle) if he could try a few things on. With an abrupt tone she replied that the store policy is that only two customers at a time are allowed in the fitting rooms and the rooms need to be sanitized before someone goes in. Note: Nothing is posted about the store policy of the fitting room restrictions. Unfortunately, Michelle doesn’t acknowledge us or make any eye contact and a boy passes by us and goes back into the fitting room to try on more clothes.

After about five additional minutes this boy comes out and Michelle cashes out with his father. At this point the fitting room is free and I am waiting for someone to sanitize and allow us to use the fitting room. Michelle continues to ignore us and after approximately five minutes and I ask Michelle if we can use the fitting room. She does not make any eye contact again, but she looks to her left at a male associate who walks over and asks if I need assistance. I said I am waiting for Michelle to let us into a fitting room. As I am speaking with the other associate Michelle rudely interrupts by saying “just let them in” and I reply, “not until it’s sanitized.” I also reiterated to Michelle, “isn’t that the policy you shared with me?” She does not respond and goes back to the counter.

I ask her if a manager is on duty. She responds by saying “I’ve been working all day.” I respond by saying, “I asked if I could speak with the Manager on duty.” She replies, “She’s on break,” and proceeds to walk to the back office.

The Manager, Amelia, comes out. I explain our experience with Michelle, and how I feel it was blatant discrimination.

I said it was clear to me and my grandson that Michelle did not want to help us because we are Black and brown customers. Amelia apologizes for the experience but proceeds to protect Michelle by saying “I don’t think she meant it that way.” Amelia did not witness what we experienced, so she truthfully cannot say that.

I am angry having had this experience with my grandson. Living in New Hampshire continues to be a challenge from my perspective, being a Black female. The experience at Aeropostale is another example of being treated with disrespect. I agree with my grandson—Michelle should be fired.

Money is the same color no matter who is spending it. I will not spend my money where racism occurs. Enough is enough—when is the hate and racism going to stop?

Jackie Gadsden

Portsmouth, N.H.

Jackie:

We would bet that, if they were asked, the average New Hampshire resident would say “No, I don’t think there’s much racism in this state.” Statistically, of course, that average resident would be white and would never have been subjected to this sort of treatment.

Thank you for writing. Your letter may help give our readers a better understanding of the state they live in. Of course, there’s no reason why you should bear the burden of educating them.

When is the hate and racism going to stop? We’re going to treat that as a rhetorical question, because we can’t bear to answer it.

The Editor

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