Lina Hoshino: I Am Not a Thief

2 min

As an Asian American, Lina Hoshino is not unfamiliar with racist taunts and threats. But a recent incident of profiling has her feeling both angry and fortunate.

Recently, as Black Lives Matter protests echoed in the streets, I was at my favorite hardware store looking for hinges for the counter at our bakery. Like many brick-and-mortar businesses, we are adapting our space for the pandemic, and I have been going there frequently. As I was leaving, two male employees approached and asked me to open my bag, saying that a customer saw me stealing. I was stunned. Until that moment, as a middle-aged, Asian American woman, I never dreamed I’d be profiled as a shoplifter.

I’ve experienced racism in this town. Strangers on the street have called me an invader, a coronavirus, and an Oriental b-word. But this was different. Someone had followed me in the shop, watching my every move as I searched for hardware.

I was enraged, hurt and then sad. Sad because I felt my world, already contracted by the pandemic, become even smaller. I would have to cross this store off the short list of places where I feel safe.

Then I thought about how fortunate I was. Though I cursed and talked back to the store employees, they did not call the police. They must have felt that a 5-foot-1-inch Asian woman was not a threat. This incident could have ended differently had I been a Black man.

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I am humbled by the self-discipline, the wisdom and grace, of the responses by people like Christian Cooper, the Central Park birdwatcher who expressed compassion for the woman who called the police on him. I am moved by the forbearance of Black and brown people who must navigate public spaces where they are often perceived as a threat, and where the police may pose a lethal threat to them.

I wrote the store manager to ask for assurance that nothing like this will happen again, to myself or others. He apologized, saying he and his team will use this incident as a learning experience.

With a Perspective, Lina Hoshino.

Lina Hoshino is a birdwatcher and bakery owner in the North Bay.