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October 22nd, 2008

Racism or Ignorance – Neither Are Worth Getting Paid For

When Keith Slater - a 22 year-old black Missouri State University student - got home after returning a pair of shoes to a Journeys store in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas, he was rather appalled when he happened to take a glance at the receipt issued to him by the store.

Next to the title Cust, for "Customer", was plainly printed "Dumb Nigger."

In Keith's words, from the ABC News article on his experience:

"Then I was like, 'Nah, no way. It can't say that. I was shocked, 'cause I didn't do anything for that to happen."

Not that there is anything Keith could or should have done for such a thing "to happen", it appeared to be - when he and his mother returned to the store the next day and confronted the same cashier - a mistake...sort of.

Apparently a recently-fired employee had keyed the racist term into the computer and accorded it the same keystroke the clerk had to use when issuing his receipt.  That the clerk even knew this raises a few questions...

  1. If the store knew it was in there, why hadn't the epithet been removed?
  2. If the clerk herself knew it was on there, why didn't she either change the keystroke or - if that wasn't possible - black-out the epithet with a black marker?
  3. Hadn't anyone else noticed this before now on their receipt, or had they just decided not to make a national issue out of it?

The latter may be more to the point than the rest, considering Keith's mother - Linda Slater - a self-described "Christian" who "doesn't believe in making a huge scene or going to court" is wondering how (and when) her son may get some type of "compensation" because he was "hurt."  And here we go.

"I could see that my son was hurt," she said. "He just kind of stood there and hung his head down."

If it was an already-programmed keystroke error then I really don't see why he would be so hurt considering the epithet would have printed on anyone's receipt requiring the same keystroke; be they black, white, pink, or purple.  Regardless, Journeys assured the family the employee who had entered the racist remark into the system had been previously fired and they apologized profusely for the very unfortunate mistake.

Still.  Of course.  Mrs. Slater wants to get paid.

I'm not saying what happened is right.  And while I'll readily admit that had I gotten a receipt from a store that had "Dumb Cracker" typed behind Customer, I'd of laughed my ass off before I would have gotten angry much less "hurt", I do realize this term is much more racially-charged and black people a bit more sensitive about it.  Still.  No one - not a single person - deserves to get money because of what someone else - ignorant though they may be - typed into a computer system weeks beforehand.

In all reality, what should have been done already was.  Said ignoramus employee was fired and Journeys apologized to the family.  Why the term had not been previously removed (oh say, around the time the person who entered it was canned) is anyone's guess.  Yet still, the family got an apology and that should be enough.  Hey, I'll be generous; give the kid a store credit.  End of story.

Please let it be the end of the story.  Hopefully, Mrs. Slater - the "Christian who does not believe in going to court" - will not sue for the ever-so-clichéd "pain and suffering" and/or "emotional damages".  Was Keith Slater - who claims never to have been called a "nigger" in his life - so horribly marked by this event that he has suffered irreparable emotional damages that equate actual pain and acute suffering?  I highly doubt so.  Let us hope that Keith's skin isn't as thin as his mother's purse is gapingly open.

Sure - I realize it was an unpleasant experience for the poor kid.  It sucked and he's likely not happy about it and that is understandable.  Being slapped in the face with the realization that racism is still alive and thriving in this country at times can't be a happy day for anyone - regardless of their skin color.  Hell, we down here in the South - black and white - got slapped with that nugget of knowledge almost as soon as we popped out of the womb; by time we're 22 it's pretty much old news.

Yet for an (obviously sheltered) young black man in middle America, I am sure it was a sobering, eye-opening, and depressing day.  Should he get big bucks for said day?  Fuck no!  What he could do is get involved in something positive for change in race relations; there's lots of affirmative ways he could turn this situation around and use his new perspective for good, fuzzy warm feelings in his life.  Seriously.  THAT would be the noble thing to do.  Hanging your head and crying for money is not - I don't give two shits what color your skin is.  At least that's this dumb cracker's two cents on the issue.

<--Addendum-->

After writing this, I stumbled upon another article on the whole issue over at a local Kansas news site, KMBC-TV.  It gave a slightly altered version from the ABC News article (that the clerk who entered the keystroke on the computer might have been the one who created it - not really clear either way) and a secondary piece about a local community activist - Alonzo Washington - who held a news conference encouraging people to "boycott Journeys".  As if this wasn't enough, Mr. Washington and his family intend to, also, return some shirts they purchased from the store a few days earlier.

Way to stick it to The Man, Alonzo.

How is boycotting the store - which fired the employee, eradicated the epithet, and apologized to the family but had nothing at all to actually do with the incident itself - going to solve or prove anything?  The apology, Washington ascertains, was "not enough".

Let me guess what would be?  A fat check?

Money doesn't solve everything, and the company that owns this particular Journeys (there are over 800 stores nationwide) paying out a huge sum for what one backwoods retard of an employee did at one store that one person noticed seems fairly pointless in my eyes.  How is that helping race relations?

If the Washingtons are so upset by what happened, perhaps their news conference should have focused on encouraging the community in positive ways to combat racial tensions when they appear, or rather educating their youth on the tenets of equality regardless of skin color.  Just a couple of thoughts.  Suing or asking for money just seems rather defeatist.

I get so frustrated seeing people take pointless, and often backwards, approaches when they see something wrong or negative that they are opposed to.  Instead of using these instances and opportunities to help and teach others to grow in more positive ways, or in working ever more diligently for equal rights, they whine and and kick their feet; accomplishing nothing for anyone nor for their issue.  Instead of seeing such instances as an opportunity to grow and tackle the problem, they see it as an unjustified personal attack and lash back out with the same sort of vicissitude.

It is, to borrow from Faulkner, "a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

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