Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy “A Trip to the Grocery Store”

Published by Darron Toy on

My sister-in-law, who’s half-black half-white,
but looks white: blue eyes, whiter than most white folks, very white. She and I, you know,
we kind of grew up together. We raised our children together so they’re first cousins
and you, it’s wonderful, very, very, multicultural family. So we’re going into Safeway, one day
and Kathleen, my sister-in-law is in front of me. And she’s, you know, writing a check
for her groceries. Now my daughter, who at the time was ten years old was standing with
me, and I was directly behind her, you know, getting ready to get my groceries. So, Kathleen
comes up, and the checker who’s a strawberry blonde, freckled, very delightful, warm, you
know, the checker, this young woman is talking to Kathleen “Hey, how you doing? Isn’t it
a nice day today?” They’re just chatting up, and she says “Yes.” So Kathy writes her check
and she steps off to the side with her groceries ’cause she’s waiting for me. Of course, again,
Kathleen looks white right? So I come up. No conversation, she looks up at me, absolutely
no just little chatter and I, I write my check. My daughter, however, is ten notices immediately
the difference in how she responds to me. So I write my check, and she goes, “I’m gonna
need two pieces of I.D.” At which point, my daughter looks at me and she gets very, very
embarrassed, and tears are kind of coming up in her eyes like “Mommy, you’re not gonna,
you’re not gonna let her do this? Why is she doing this to us? Right?” So I’m trying to
figure out what I should do ’cause behind me are two elderly white women. Right? Now,
I’m thinking, okay, so then I become the angry black woman right? And they’re gonna be. And
I just, I’m just trying to second-guess all the drama. So then, I, I just give her the
two pieces of I.D. You know, some things you just got to choose your battles, right? And
then it gets worse. She pulls out the bad check book right? So, this is the book that
shows the people who’ve written bad checks. So she starts searching for my license in
the bad checks at which point, it’s just out of control now. Just as I’m standing there
trying to decide what to do, and this is really deeply humiliating and now my daughter is
in full blown emotionally upset, who’s ten. My sister-in-law walks back over and she steps
in, and she says, “Excuse me, why are you doing this?” And the checker goes “What do
you, what do you mean?” She goes, “Why are you taking her through all of these changes?
Why are you doing that?” She goes, “Well, um, this is our policy.” She goes, “No, it’s
not your policy because you didn’t do that with me.” “Oh well, I know you, you’ve been
here.” She goes, “No, no she’s been here for years, I’ve only lived here for three months.”
And so at this point, two white elderly ladies go “Uh! I can’t believe what this checker
has done with this woman, it is totally unacceptable!” At which point, the manager walks over. So
the manager walks over and says, “Is there a problem here?” And then my sister-in-law
responds. She goes, “Yes, there is a problem here. Here’s what happened.” So you see, she
used her white privilege and even though Kathleen is half-black and half-white she recognizes
what that means; and she made the statement. She pointed out the injustice and she, as
a result of that one act, influenced everyone in that space. But what would’ve happened?
I can’t know for certain, had the black woman said “This is unfair, why are you doing this
to me?” Would it have had the same impact? But Kathleen knew that she walked through
the world differently than I did and she used her white privilege to educate and make right
a situation that was wrong. That’s what you can do, every single day.


KissOfDanger · May 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm


kenawyd10 · May 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

what an awesome story, thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ˜€

nonassumsit · June 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm






JewelJGtv · July 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

Loving! This is real courage, that most don't posses .

chiyo tachibana · August 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I love this story!

Fun Creatives · September 25, 2012 at 8:37 am

Wonderful, I guess that's why there are whites out there who care, that's what you can do

Wendy Bush · September 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Stand up for one another! ๐Ÿ™‚

Dr. Kuku · September 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Wow. Thanks for posting this. I've been struggling with this a lot and am frustrated at the lack of courage around, the lack of willingness to discuss, let alone act. I can count the number of times that someone spoke up for me- including a time when a straight friend confronted guys for gay-bashing me. We've got to stand up for one another, otherwise there'll be no one left to stand with and then we'll be alone.

Dawn Marie Marchand · October 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I'm Canadian Cree First Nation. I remember when I was in Safeway, and my children and I were followed around by the security guard. I had my phone on vibrate and it went off in my purse so I opened the purse. At the checkout counter infront of all those people…he took me aside and asked to look in my purse. He had seen me open it. My children were devastated as we were dragged to the back of the store to security. He found my wallet and my phone…then I returned all the groceries.

Ngeri Nnachi · November 16, 2012 at 4:15 am

It's all about having a sense of awareness. Being aware of your surroundings, aware of the possible mindsets of those that you encounter and being sympathetic to the subjectivity of things. Speaking up rather than remaining silent makes all the difference. I love that your level of awareness has been raised. Kudos and the best of wishes to you!

jefmar14 · January 21, 2013 at 5:30 am

Great video, I wish more people would use their white privilege to expose racial bias! Kathleen is a great woman!!

Amiii264 · February 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm

This was really interesting!

barbaro267 · April 3, 2013 at 3:52 am

That's an amazing story ๐Ÿ™‚ and Joy tells it so well!

WillowFish · April 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Even though she "can't know for sure" what would have happened if she spoke up it's pretty clear what would have happened. She would have been the "angry black woman" and she would be dismissed or accused of being irate and oversensitive. Just like I am often cast as the "angry lesbian" or "angry feminist" when I speak up about injustices. When you stereotype a group of people as angry and overly sensitive it becomes much easier to dismiss their concerns. It's a clever trick of oppression, no?

LilithProductions · April 14, 2013 at 3:05 am

Joy is so eloquent. Amazing!

J MAN · May 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm

ohhh it's so happening

TY PPA · June 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I am in tears as someone speaks about what unfortunately is nearly a daily experience for me sometimes. When I talk about it few people seem to get what I am talking about. At least with you and your accomplishments someone might hear you because you become another way. I on the other hand am in University trying to get some credentials so that perhaps someone will listen to me an attribute a little validity to my experiences.

Marcel Wormsley · June 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Unfortunately, black clerks are just as guilty of this behavior. As a black man, I can't tell you how many times a black clerk would suddenly clam up as if I didn't exist once it was my turn to check out. This after wishing the the last white customer a great day. Some blacks carry around an internalized disdain for other blacks.

KeladryL · June 10, 2013 at 3:47 am

I've only recently become aware that white privilege exists and that I've benefited from it, but I wasn't sure what to do if I come across a situation like this. I've worried that I'd be taking authority or autonomy from the person of color, not letting them solve the problem. But now that I've seen this, I know what to do. Thank you so much for this video.

Hli Lor · June 10, 2013 at 4:26 am

I applaud her. That was absolutely great.

D Quinn · June 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm

This is inspiring. If I ever get the opportunity, I'm going to put my white skin and my voice to good use

Sebastian Avery Morris · June 11, 2013 at 2:09 am

My husband, who is African-American, and I have similar experiences on a fairly regular basis. I will be treated in an entirely different and more favorable manner than he. When Christopher is standing ahead of me in a line, staff will often offer to help me first, or restaurant staff, assuming that we are not together, will offer to seat me rather than him. The such racism, even today, so deeply pervades our society is disgraceful.

Emma Gill · June 11, 2013 at 6:51 am

Sometimes I forget I have white privilege, because I would never think of being prejudiced to someone just because of someone's skin colour. I can't believe people are still so close minded. We're all people

rockygirl · June 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Your level of maturity and self-control is something that I hope to one day achieve. I look up to you so much, as a woman. Also, this is a great message… had me in tears.

G Pats · June 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

This is beautiful, I have yet to witness this where I live but I'm doing this every time I see some dumb crap like this happening

Dayshawn Alexander · June 11, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I am in love with the way she talks. I wish was my great aunt of something.

cherisnyder27 · June 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

this is a sad reality that I wish didn't exist. God forgive me if I have ever made anyone (whatever their race) feel this way. I was in years watching that. what right does ANYONE have to make another human being feel like that? it shouldn't happen. ever.

Big Mood · June 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

also a good thing to note in addition to what the OP said, is that with your white privilege be aware that you have it and that sometimes even white people with good intentions tend to try to put in a voice that overshadows the voices of POC or those without the privilege your possess (male privililge/hetero privilige/etc).

willworkforpizza · June 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

I love this.
Whenever I see anything like this happening, I'm going to have to step in.

geligniteandlilies · June 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

This makes me want to cry, but I am also loving how she is encouraging people to make changes and step up. She is wonderful and I am sorry this happened to her, but wow how strong she is. I want to be like her.

Kelly Buggins · June 13, 2013 at 11:37 pm


Elyse Yost · June 14, 2013 at 12:13 am

This is awesomeb

H · June 15, 2013 at 9:04 pm

dat white privilege.

Maays · June 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm

*claps* ๐Ÿ™‚

Fucj This · June 17, 2013 at 3:01 am

instead of being ashamed you have privilege and others don't, do this

Ribbi Alexander · June 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Very insightful. I wonder how many times this has happened to me without even noticing.

Natalie Claire · June 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

This woman's voice is beautiful and she used it to make a great point.

hellowhitepeople · June 18, 2013 at 5:53 am

Insightful. Thank you.

Kotokizu · June 18, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I very much enjoyed this video thank you

Biderbeck · June 19, 2013 at 12:33 am

thanks for this!

mitsukislife · June 19, 2013 at 1:23 am


Amor Vincit Omnia · June 19, 2013 at 1:29 am

It breaks my heart that we live in a world like this. But I am incredibly grateful for people like Joy and her sister who encourage others and speak up against the ignorance and wrong doing of others.

Steven Hubac · June 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

This is actually amazing i love it so much!

Kristen Frisco · June 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm

This almost makes me cry

Krel-Tal · June 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm

As a straight, white, male I strive to be as good a person as this woman's sister in law.

TonyGT37 · June 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Sad to say but it really helps to have white friends at times lol

ashsparks · June 24, 2013 at 6:20 am

Bystanders can do this in a variety of situations. Racism, sexism, ageism… We all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable in the face of all of these forms of harassment.

ty · June 24, 2013 at 6:34 am

this nearly brought me to tears. I love this.

GapYearGrrrrl · June 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

*Round of applause.*

afronaut · June 25, 2013 at 1:30 am

Beautiful, truly.

kyleen sixtysix · June 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I love this! It's a good and positive video that shows what "whites" can do to help!

nightofcrimson13 · June 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm

What a powerful message – and yet it's sad this is still an issue.

Thank you for uploading this beautiful video.

Makkon · June 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm

This is the first time I have ever come across the term White Privilege used in a constructive way. Thank you.

MrFreeGman · June 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Question: If you were to replace all the white people in this story with Asians, would it be considered evidence of Asian privilege? This seems more like a case of in-group behaviour rather than anything inherent to whites.

Daniela Salazar · June 30, 2013 at 10:02 am

This is beautiful

Herv3 · July 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

You nailed it.

Prince Akeem Joffer · July 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm


Tracy Fear · July 4, 2013 at 2:03 am

Wow, just wow. So much not what I see in my reality (life experience) being part of the "privileged." For lack of a better term, facing it really sucks. I am a west coast transplant from the Bay Area to Alabama. Lots of things different out here. I am sure I understand the dynamics, but I also surely don't want to accept it. I am also sorry that some of the few have predisposed bias on more of the many.

Mina Hotak · July 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

great video!!!

fvckpxv · July 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm


Spencer Duncan · July 16, 2013 at 4:53 am


Sashabug16 · July 16, 2013 at 6:04 pm

great video!

Vikki G · July 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm

So amazing!

n_pz · July 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm

AMAZING! Wow, so powerful ๐Ÿ™‚

Zoe · July 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

woow. this is brilliant

PrimeStigma · July 17, 2013 at 12:45 am


Fresh Heat · July 17, 2013 at 5:49 am

Dammn that was an awesome story. Favorited.

TheGhost525 · July 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm


MrMystery2123 · July 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm

yes gurl. PREACH.

rivr crse · July 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Well said respect

Benny Nelson · July 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

I hope that cashier got fired.

chicken palmerjohn · July 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

*slow claps*

deborah nesbit · July 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The way she tells it is beautiful – but everything that triggered it is ugly as homemade sin. Instead of just saying, "What a beautiful story," answer me this: What are you as a white person going to do the VERY next time you see something like this happnen? What are you going to do the next time your fam or friends make a racist joke? This story isn't just a call for comment – it's a call for white people to act.

Dominique · July 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm

And I endeavor to do so. Thank you for such an eloquent reminder.

FlixChick · July 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm


Hasan Sabir · July 24, 2013 at 4:13 am

This is great

SOTBP Conference · August 23, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Sharing with others at STATE OF THE BLACK PARENT!

Teencat · August 31, 2013 at 12:52 am

Beautiful. This is the way to use privilege. I dream of a day where no one of any cultural group will have to go through this just because of their skin colour.

Jose S. · September 8, 2013 at 3:28 am

Love this.

Jerome khan · October 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm

wow that was beautiful and inspiring ๐Ÿ™‚

8legged-WolfChild · November 21, 2013 at 4:14 am

This definitely helped me understand a bit better how to use my privilege in a positive way.

B · November 21, 2013 at 4:14 am

Clapssssss, claps, claps…

itaschmita · November 23, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Powerful stuff.

Stephen Booth · November 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I've often felt that privilege (and the discrimination it comes from) will only change when the people who benefit from the privilege make the change, when the people who can only lose from changing the status quo make the change.

Hashim Adam · November 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm


mindnumbling · November 30, 2013 at 6:02 am

Holy Jesus, I love every part of what she said, and I think it's even more powerful that she said all of it with such enthusiasm too

F · December 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm

woww! <3

Mya Baxter · December 28, 2013 at 2:05 am

this is fascinating.

ladylordess · January 2, 2014 at 3:57 am

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG with asking for two pieces of id??? ESPECIALLY if you fit the profile of the majority of bad check writers.

Halsey Vi · January 5, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I didn't even know racism like this existed anymore? Wow…guess I have a lot to learn.

MattG887 · January 7, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Good story.

DarkWillUser · January 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Very eye opening and done with grace.

RickyboyH · March 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm

I'm glad your in-law stepped in and defended you!

CodeDarkBlue · April 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

damn this makes me angry

Morana st.hilaire · April 8, 2015 at 5:59 am

This is something to make us all think

Black Man Rising · June 1, 2015 at 9:48 pm

That's quite a story. I would pay good money to see the look on that cashier's face.

Carrie Tucker · June 13, 2015 at 12:49 am

Why are we calling her Joy? Isn't it customary to show some respect? Her name is DR. Joy DeGruy.

Skip Lima · June 22, 2015 at 3:22 am

See, if SHE had said something to that cashier, she would not only have been called an angry black woman stereotype, but keep in mind her claims and complaints would most likely be ignored because she'd be """pulling out the race card""". When people of color such as myself point out racial problems in our society, white people tell us we're pulling the race card. But when white people (or white-passing, in this case) do it for us, they are often listened to, and referred to as noble.

Which isn't to say Cathleen (Kathleen?) didn't do a good thing! It's just that we must keep in mind what would have happened if it were the speaker who had said something.

Constable Court Services · July 27, 2015 at 2:18 am

I love Joy so much for herย harmonious demeanor. She is always on point with her subject selection. Her tranquil and non-aggressive approach helps her to explain her position entirely. Most African American people are not heard when explaining their position. The first sign of elevated tune or heightened anxiety causes white people to show their ignorance to the third power. Black store clerks treat white people with superior customer service while given their own race a hassle when checking out. Black women are the biggest culprits at the cash register, and have a tendency to bash black men when checking out. I see a big difference in attitude when I am in my police uniform, from when I am in a sweatsuit. IGNORANCE DOES NOT TAKE A DAY OF REST…

Qiana Silver · August 8, 2015 at 4:47 am

That was amazing. Thank you for sharing!

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