Joshua Lane wants to teach the next generation to be leaders.

No family ever wants to go through the experience that Joshua Lane and his family went through in 2020. Being judged because of the way you look is an awful — and potentially dangerous — situation that no one would ever want to be in.

Yet when it happened to Lane, he decided to take the moment as a teachable one, and share his experience in hopes of inspiring change.

A Routine Shopping Trip

man with a moustache and beard
YouTube/CBS News

When Lane entered the local Walmart in Vacaville, California a couple of years ago, he had no idea the shopping trip would culminate with him being racially profiled and being asked to leave.

The Black man and father of two was shopping for a movie projector for his kids in March 2020 when suddenly, security personnel began following him. The longshoreman had a conversation with one of the men.

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“I told him I’m a working man and showed him a picture of my wife and kids,” Lane recalled to CBS News. “He kind of apologized but told me, ‘You fit the description.’”

At first, Lane shrugged it off and went to another aisle, but then he noticed more people trailing him. One woman, in particular, began to watch him extra closely.

“We moved to another aisle and continued speaking. That’s when the lady followed me again,” Lane continued. “This happened at least three different times in three different aisles.”

Protecting Himself

At that point, Lane whipped out his phone and began recording the interactions to protect himself. In the video, which Lane’s wife later shared on social media, the woman can be seen calling someone.

“He’s being hostile and threatening,” she’s overheard saying.

“She then asked me to leave,” Lane explained to the publication. “When she said those words I knew she was on the phone as well. I ceased everything and I headed towards the exit.”

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Later, after the video gained traction and Lane began sharing his story (including reporting it to the company), Walmart Global Ethics investigated. The company said it was “unable to substantiate” the allegation of racial profiling by a “former employee,” and shared that Lane was a customer “currently in good standing.”

“I’m trying to teach my son and my daughter; they’re gonna have to grow up in the city and be leaders as well,” Lane said. “I’m trying to show them by example.”

A Common Occurrence

One of the reasons Lane wanted to push back in a constructive way following the incident is because it wasn’t an isolated one. Black people go through these types of scenarios every single day.

“It’s very real. It’s everywhere. It needs to be talked about. The more silent we are about it, the more it’s going to continue to happen,” he added.

That’s also why Lane returned to Walmart nearly two weeks after the incident, along with two members of the NAACP, to meet with the store manager. He wanted an explanation, and he also wanted to ensure something would be done to make the store safe for all customers.

“If I had been hostile, it probably would’ve turned out in a not good situation,” Lane wrapped. “That could’ve been my name out there everybody would be screaming.”

Speaking Up When It Matters

This story is frustrating because it shows how real racial profiling and systemic racism continue to be, even with all the learning we’ve gone through in the past couple of years.

The good news is that there are people like Lane who are speaking up and working on spreading the word to try and inspire change in a positive and educational way.

It’s a reminder that when we’re in an unfair (and maybe scary) situation, it’s always best to try and remain calm but not to go silent. By waiting until he was out of the store and reacting, rather than putting up a fight in the heat of the moment, Lane was able to get his message across to more people.

Meanwhile, it’s also important to continue and challenge your own preconceived notions and ideas, and accept that your experience may not be the same as someone else’s. The more we’re willing to be open and honest about the work that needs to be done and the change that needs to happen, the sooner we can finally get there.