So there’s part of our recent trip to Canada I’ve thought a lot about since returning home. I’ve shared the story with family, friends and coworkers. The more I think about it the more it frustrates and angers me.
Unbeknownst to me the story has its roots in events that took place a year ago when my identity was stolen. Thieves stole it, along with several hundred others, from a database and used them to file fraudulent federal tax returns. After realizing I was a victim, I contacted all proper authorities at the instruction of the IRS. After that, I pretty much forgot about the situation. There wasn’t anything more I could do about it and as the police officer who took my report told me, it was unlikely the criminals would ever be caught.
Well, come to find out, there was a little more I needed to know. Turned out, I needed a password to verify my identity for the border agent. The thing is, nobody bothered to tell me that because of the identity theft complaint a password was created and associated with my passport. So imagine my surprise when the feisty border agent rudely responded “I don’t know who you are!” when I asked why we were being told to go to secondary screening. When I tried to explain why I was asking, he responded with “Do I need to pull you from the vehicle?!”
I’ll spare you the remaining details and just say the agent’s aggressive tone and body language, he put his hand on his side arm and lunged toward me while I sat in the driver’s seat of my vehicle, were completely unnecessary. I had two tired and crabby kids in the backseat who were wondering why it was taking so long. On top of that I was managing my own confusion and surprise at the unexpected turn of events. I was simply trying to understand what was going on, what the problem was and to calm my kid’s growing impatience.
Here’s my bottom-line:
1) We’ve taught our kids if they are ever lost, see something suspicious or dangerous to tell a trusted adult. A trusted adult includes a person in uniform. Hard for my kids to trust a person in uniform if they see someone treating their mother the way the agent treated me.
2) It was hard to explain to our 10 year old why he should respect the person in uniform who just treated his mom so disrespectfully. My son saw a bully, not a man of authority.
3) I feel lucky to be white. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m lucky because of my skin color because that means someone is unlucky because of theirs. I find myself thinking about how things might have been different if I was a person of color. I hate that the color of a person’s skin makes a difference, but I know it does.
I continue to work hard for what I have. I paid my way through college and spent time and energy developing my career in more than one male dominated field. I make daily trade-offs to find balance between work and family.
More now than ever, I realize my road to success, while at times bumpy, has always been a paved road. And those bumps, well, they were more like small potholes. There are plenty of people for whom that isn’t the case and I hope I never forget that.