Since being targeted for someone else’s crime in 2021, Ithaca College senior Rugie Baldeh has been intimidated, harassed and profiled by her bosses at Walmart. Her crime? Having the same skin color as a group of scammers.
What happened to Baldeh is part of a larger issue that has occurred throughout the history of corporate U.S. — assuming that Black workers are up to no good. The assumption that Baldeh was friends with a group of thieves that have nothing in common with her aside from skin color is a textbook example of how blue-collar workers are dehumanized and discriminated against, even in a liberal place like Ithaca. A simple Google search into Walmart cash scams shows results of scams similar to the one Baldeh was subjected to happening at Walmart stores around the country. Had management at Walmart taken the time to look into Baldeh’s situation in any capacity beyond noticing her skin tone, they would have seen this and realized that Baldeh was the victim in this situation, not the perpetrator.
What has happened to Baldeh demands reflection. As a community, we must ask ourselves how it would feel to lose a job over something you didn’t do because of a racist manager. History shows that the assumption that innocent Black people are up to no good has resulted in violence: In 2016, Charles Kinsey, a Black mental health therapist, was shot by police for the “crime” of trying to help his patient. For many Black people in U.S., discrimination in the workplace starts even before hiring; Naturi Greene, a Black woman, was repeatedly rejected when applying for jobs at Target. The company only granted her an interview when she changed the name on her application to Tori and indicated that she was mixed race.
These are just some of the many examples of Black workers being discriminated against with violent or life-altering results. These incidents take away workers’ dignity and their pride and they will continue if empty apologies come with no action.