Security guard caught on camera following Black woman around Toronto grocery store
As progressive as many people in the world seem to think that Canada is, those who actually live here can tell you that racism abounds — subtly, overtly and systemically.
What happened to 28-year-old Regina Ramos at a Longo's store in downtown Toronto on Tuesday could be classified under all three categories and, sadly, it's not an uncommon occurence.
With roughly 40 minutes to grab some food before the departure of her GO train to Durham Region, where she recently relocated from King West, Ramos says went into the Longo's at 15 York Street around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
"I'm plant-based and found little to no substantial packaged vegetarian meals. This location has a large dining area so I walked over to see if it was open," she tells blogTO. "It was closed, so I circled back and continued my search."
"At this time I noticed a security guard looking at me and trailing behind. This continued as I walked throughout the store — whenever I turned around he was there. I quickly switched the direction in which I was walking and he finally stopped."
Thinking the ordeal was over, the professional video editor and content creator says she decided to order a slice of pizza for the road — but before she could, she says another employee approached and asked if she needed help.
Ramos says she was literally just about to be helped by someone behind the hot food counter, so the question struck her as weird.
When she asked the employee why he had come to speak with her, she claims he said that it was because she'd been "wandering around the store" without any groceries in her hand — you know, like people do when they haven't yet figured out what they want for dinner.
It was at this point that Ramos started filming the interaction with her phone, right after the young woman told her she felt like she was being profiled and right before the employee actually stood up for the security guard, stating: "It's his job to follow who he thinks he should follow."
Ramos held her own, as video footage shows, calmly calling out what she alleges was racist behaviour and asking to speak with a manager. Once the manager arrived and learned that she was a regular customer (a former RealSports employee who worked above the supermarket for five years), he apologized.
"A Black man who was shopping reached out to me when I was leaving and said things like this happen to him all the time," Ramos tells blogTO.
"I couldn't help but think about the younger people of colour who have been in this situation and were afraid to stand up for themselves. One of the reasons why I don't have the full interrogation recorded was because I was in a state of shock."
Longo's, which started as a family-owned brand in Southern Ontario but recently sold 51% of themselves to the conglomerate behind Sobey's, FreshCo and Foodland, has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment from blogTO.
Even worse, they haven't contacted Ramos — this, despite the store's manager taking her name and number at the time of the incident.
Ramos says she'd like to see Longo's provide sensitivity training to staff across all their locations, and give back to the communities that they have discriminated against, noting that many families today are struggling to put food on the table.
"Racism exists in Canada, it's simply practiced in a passive manner," she says. "The main difference between us and the United States is that this security guard would have been allowed to take matters into his own hands and possibly take my life."
"The harm that was done to me wasn't physical so it can easily be dismissed. It's happening as we speak," she says, referring to Longo's conspicuous silence.
"I didn't call out the security guard when he was following me because Black people have to pick and choose their battles," Ramos says. "If we don't, we're gaslit and accused of 'making everything about race'."
"I hope that the readers understand that everything was designed to be about race, and to thoroughly understand systemic racism."
Following the publication of this article, Longo's reached out blogTO with the following statement:
"As it relates to this matter, we are certainly aware and have prompted an internal investigation including outreach to the guest directly, discussions with the team members involved (including security) and reviewing all footage so we can get to the bottom of this. We assure you that this issue has our full attention and we will get back to you as soon as we have more information."
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