Tonight my racism chase takes me to the West Coast.
Now I must admit that the following story is not such a clear cut case of racism as others that I have highlighted on this blog in the past. And the truth is, quite a few people (especially white ones) have lashed out at the victim in the case and told her to get over herself.
Here is the story:
"An African-American woman filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday, April 10, against Albertsons and its parent company, Safeway, alleging that its managers took no steps to correct or apologize for the actions of a checkout clerk at an Irvine store who incorrectly assumed the woman was on food stamps.
Jenna Watkinson, a spokeswoman for Safeway, said company officials have not seen the lawsuit and “do not comment on pending litigation.”
'However, any time we interact with a customer, our goal is to ensure that they are treated with the utmost respect and courtesy,' she said Wednesday.
Deirdre Harris, 42, who filed the lawsuit, said the incident occurred Jan. 27 at the Albertsons at Alton Avenue and Culver Street. Harris said she was trying to pull out a debit card from her phone case to pay for the items, when the checkout clerk asked her if she wanted to use her EBT card.
'What exactly did you say?' Harris asked the clerk.
The clerk repeated her question and asked if she wanted to use food stamps.
'I felt completely demoralized,' said Harris, an Orange County native who grew up in Huntington Beach, works as a fashion brand consultant, and has lived in Irvine for 22 years. 'For me, it was a very clear reminder — a painful reminder — that we do not live in a post-racial era.'
Harris said she spoke with three supervisors including Ron Foss, a regional manager at Safeway. She said he explained to Harris, like others supervisors had before, that the clerk had done nothing wrong and was simply trying to give her free bags, because those using food stamps don’t have to pay for reusable plastic bags.
Foss, who was mentioned in the lawsuit, eventually offered her $500 as compensation for her emotional distress, she said, and added: “If I were you, I’d take it.”
A follow-up letter sent by a Safeway claims examiner to Harris on March 24, the same day she talked to Foss, states: “Please be advised that we’ve completed our investigation and determined there’s no liability on the store. I acknowledge your allegation of emotional distress and would be willing to offer a customer service gesture of $500. …Failing to accept the customer service gesture will be construed as a rejection and will result in a formal denial of this claim as there has been no evidence of discrimination or racial profiling.”
It wasn’t the first time Harris had experienced the subtle undercurrents of racism in a city that is less than 1 percent African-American, she said. But, she added, her conversation with Foss was the “tipping point.” [Source]
Yep, clearly a case of a clerk who let her racial bias get the better of her.
And trust me, I know that I am the racism chaser, but I don't consider everything to be racist. There is nothing, for instance, racist about drinking milk. And to suggest otherwise (as someone has attempted to do) would be just asinine.
I am thinking to myself that if this incident had happened in Inglewood or Oakland, California it would not be such a clear cut case of racism, but Irvine is a different story. This might have been the only black person this clerk saw all day, and to assume that she was using food stamps because she is black was...well...racist.
*Pic from yelp.com