How A Teenager Stood Up To Small Town Racism

My teenage daughter walked into my home office while I was on a call.

She seemed different, not how she normally cracks my door to ask a question, tattle on a sister or sit for some homework help. As I titled the headset, she teared up. Then she began to shake. I told my colleague I had to go.

My first thought was one of our dogs was dead. My second was someone in middle school had texted something awful.

What she told me was far worse.

Our retired caregiver G has been visiting. My girls consider her a grandmother, and she indulges them as such. My oldest had gone with her to get their nails done.

But the nail salon staff wouldn’t wait on G.

My daughter, who is white and grew up in this town, was seated right away, and a male nail tech began working on her nails. G, who is black and from Jamaica, sat next to her and waited. And waited. And waited.

Then a white woman walked in without an appointment, and a nail tech – who had been cleaning the salon – went to her and began working.

G asked if they were going to do her nails. A towel was put by her feet and the tech walked away. Nothing.

G asked again, and the male tech ignored her. So my daughter asked why no one was helping G. No answer.

G got up to leave. And my daughter said she was not going to stay while he refused to service G. The man quickly ripped the foil off my daugther’s nails and began yelling: “GO! GO! GO!”

My daughter was terrified. She didn’t know what he was going to do. G took her outside.

At home, we called the police and filed a report. Nothing could be done criminally, the police said. Nothing physical had happened; the psychological was a civil matter.

My wife, daughter and I went back to the salon to talk to the owner. She wasn’t there.

The male tech tried to shout down our daughter, but she stood up to him and for her beloved G. She retold what happened again.

But then an old white women leaned forward from the back of the salon: “Well, what do you want us to do about it? We weren’t here.”

My town has three things in abundance: nail salons, wine stores and coffee shops. It’s easy to boycott the racist nail salon and to tell the story on the local Facebook forum. But an old woman bothered that her mani-pedi was being disturbed? The psychological impact on G and my daughter?

G is of an age where she’s unfortunately been subjected to this kind of racism before. My daughter will be processing this for a long time. She’s been raised and educated at schools without any thought to race. She thinks of people, not skin color or ethnicity. Now she has to square what happened with a segment of our community that is not what she imagined.

Today, she and G are going to go to a different nail salon, one recommended on Facebook for accepting everyone.