I am an African-American woman who attends Geneseo. I love the campus for what it is, but I hate the way some village locals stereotype others. From past experiences, I am well aware of the stereotypes used against minorities in Geneseo. Although severely blatant racism does not happen as often, I feel incredibly compelled to share this story. For the sake of the people involved in this incident, we’ve chosen to remain unnamed.
My friends and I decided to go to Geneseo Square Theaters on March 27 around 9:15 p.m. We arrived in a group of about nine people, with my Indian-American male friend holding a purse for a female friend. Upon entering the theater, the white male manager stopped my friend—apparently in some sort of emergency—and said, “You can’t bring bags into the movie theater.”
My friend responded that the purse belonged to one of the women in our group. Following his response, I asked the manager, “Since when aren’t women allowed to bring purses into the theater?”
To our disbelief, the employee replied, “Since they started bombing theaters.”
To avoid further confrontation, my friend opened her purse for the manager of the theater, assuring him that she only had books and a football in her purse. Without asking, the manager removed the football out of her hands and shook the ball—as if checking for explosives. Ignoring his unnecessary rudeness, we proceeded to buy our tickets.
My Sikh friend was the first to purchase his ticket. As the manager rang him up, he noticed my friend was holding an opened iced tea and asked to smell the bottle. Instead of waiting for his consent, the manager tried to remove the bottle from his hand. Throughout the entire incident, I was right next to him holding an open beverage and not once did the manager ask to smell my bottle. Maintaining my composure and hiding my discomfort, I purchased my ticket.
My Asian female friend purchased her ticket next. She handed the manager her debit card before she remembered that there is a student discount for Geneseo students. She tried to show her Geneseo student ID card for the discount, but the manager refused, claiming she could not have the discount after already paying.
After being treated so nastily by the manager, I finally asked for a refund—letting him know that I will no longer be patronizing his theater. He counted out $9 and threw it on the counter rather than handing the money to me. He proceeded to do the same to all of my friends who asked for their money back.
We left, but returned shortly after and asked to speak to a manager. He told us that there was no one higher than he, and if we didn’t want him to search our bags, we could have left. We exchanged some words, resulting in a small argument.
I do not know if there are any laws that allow staff members of a movie theater to search a customer’s bag. It was the manager—not a security guard, which may have been more understandable—who left the ticket booth to block us from entering because he saw a big group of non-white students in his theater.
The manager did not specify that he needed to search my friend’s bag for safety reasons or for food that isn’t allowed in the theater. His only response was that, “They have started bombing movie theaters,” and because my Indian friend was holding the bag, the manager automatically associated his appearance with “bombs.”
What happened that night was not our first encounter with discrimination in Geneseo. We know this town isn’t diverse, but that does not give anyone the right to suggest that an Indian college student could be a terrorist or that a big group of minorities means trouble. This night was a clear and evident instance of racial-profiling that should never happen again.
Geneseo Theater manager Jason Yantz responded to the allegations: