We see the stories all the time. People just minding their business, living there lives, and the unimaginable happens. Authority figures go off the deep end with their actions and lack of sensitivity. Many of us have experienced the frustration and humiliation of racial profiling. Thankfully my experiences have been more of an embarrassment than an endangerment of my well- being or life, but things start small and grow from there. From small acts of discourteousness grow the larger incidents of unvarnished hate.
A very close friend of mine moved to a local retirement village a bit over a year ago. I have visited him several times since his move. On each visit, I experienced trouble getting past the security gate and the problem became more evident with each visit. My friend even went so far as to alert the security gate of my impending arrival in hope of expediting my admission to the property. It got to the point I was being interrogated as to why I was visiting and required to show multiple pieces of ID to the security guard, while I would watch car after car of people being waved into the complex. I could not see why I was being subjected to such scrutiny for any reason other than I was African American and being profiled because I was not entering the property to work for any of the residents. My friend agreed with my assessment and even complained multiple times to the management, to no avail. I finally explained to him I would no longer be visiting due the hassle and embarrassment I repeatedly experienced. As awkward as making that explanation was, it was all behind me, or so I thought.
I recently acquired two new client who both live in a retirement village, both located in the afore mentioned complex of my friend. Having a house call practice, acquiring clients in a retirement village is a very desirable thing. Acquiring clients in a retirement village that you have a history of being denied entry into, is not so desirable. In an attempt to make the best of an uncomfortable situation, I scheduled both client’s appointments for the same day and an hour apart. I discussed with my new clients my concerns and instructed them to contact the security gate twice prior to my arrival for their appointments. With these precautions, the signage on my truck, and my wearing my work shirt with my logo, I figured my admittance to the property would be relatively easy, compared to my previous visit.
I arrive at the gate 30 minutes prior to my scheduled appointments. Being late for an appointment is not acceptable, no matter the reason, so it is better to be late than sorry. I announce to the guard, who I am, why I am here, and with whom I have an appointment. I also stated both clients have called the gate to let him know to expect my arrival. The familiar litany of questions begin along with the request of identification. It is beyond belief to be asked for identification when you are in a vehicle that has your picture and name mounted on plaques on three sides while wearing a shirt embroidered with your name. I often wonder myself if it is great advertising or narcissism.
I request he check his log because my clients have called the gate in anticipation of my visit. The guard states no such calls have been made. I knew he was lying because I spoke with my clients and confirmed they called a few minutes prior to my arrival. He informs me I can’t enter and must drive around to the “back” gate, about a half mile down the road. I request he call the other gate, and he states he won’t and if I want to enter the property I would have to drive there. Begrudgingly, I turn my vehicle around and head for the “back” gate. The symbolism of it all is not lost on me.
As I approach the “back” gate, I see the guard stepping out of his shelter and he is waving. And smiling. I stop and he greets me by name. I explain my experience at the “front” gate and he is appalled. This guard explains he is the supervisor of security and is sincerely apologetic for the experience I had. He sends me on my way and asks that I exit this same gate when I depart after my appointments.
An hour and an half later I have finished my appointed rounds and return to the gate as per the request of the supervisor. He again apologizes for the bad experience and hands me a business card and a sheet of paper. He invites me to call and make an appointment to return to the facility for lunch with him and the head of human resources and explains the sheet of paper is a renewable 30 days entry pass. He also explains there will be repercussions for the other guard for his actions. I thank him and promise I will see him soon for lunch.
As I drive a way, I feel a bit of satisfaction and cynicism. Satisfaction because my appointments went well and will most likely lead to additional clients. Cynicism as to how well the pass will work and what will happen when it expires in 30 days.
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls. He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com