The latest in a decades-long series of racial profiling instances at a popular national restaurant chain is yet further proof of how far Black people have to go to gain equality in America, George Floyd’s uncle recently said.
Selwyn Jones was addressing the viral incident from last month when two Black truckers were refused service by a white waitress and kicked out of a Denny’s location in South Dakota for simply trying to order food.
The co-founder of the Hope929 Foundation, a nonprofit group that aims to honor Floyd by helping marginalized communities along the civil rights front, is a resident of South Dakota and has been outspoken on a number of issues since his nephew was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020. He said the Black men’s unfortunate encounter in Sioux Falls is a reminder that “racism is still very real in America” and “it hasn’t gone away.”
Jones said the racial profiling incident at Denny’s was “a disgrace” that underscores the lack of progress being made along racial lines in America.
“Some people might think this stuff isn’t happening anymore in this country but it is. Right here in South Dakota and in other states,” Jones said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Black people are still going through it. It’s 2023 and we’re dealing with discrimination on where we can eat. It’s a disgrace. We need to start treating each other equally and seeing we’re all part of the same race, the human race.”
In case you missed it, video footage recorded by Hector Madera and Damon Whitfield shows them being refused service, accused of being confrontational, told to leave, and reported to the police despite the absence of any criminal activity. While there was never any mention of their race, they said the only difference between them from the other customers being served was the color of their skin.
let’s make this go viral! Sioux Falls Denny’s and the racist waitress! this is not me is my friend who is a Long Haul truck driver with his business partner. he went into hey Denny’s 5201 North Granite Lane Sioux Falls SD 57107 and was seated by waitress even given a menu then a few minutes later as he thought the waitress would come back she never did they sat other people she got their drinks and did everything to help them but never came back to him his partner came from the restroom about a half an hour later and they still didn’t get their food or anything the partner then asked for The Waitresses help and right away she said you’re not going to yell at me like that you’re not going to talk to me like that you need to leave they didn’t even do anything. it probably may have been a factor that they would only two black men in the restaurant at the time. they then got the cops called on them and they didn’t even know that another waitress came over and said yeah I can’t serve you guys you need to leave and that’s the one who is speaking in the film to them at first. that’s not the initial waitress. PLEASE HELP @jolly_good_ginger this is not cool at all. the manager did not want to come out of the office either even though they lied initially and said that the manager was not there the police spoke to the manager. also they went next door and spoke to the gas station attendant he went in and spoke to the manager and the manager cursed him out probably didn’t help that that guy was also black. #racist #dennys #viral #wow #didthatjusthappen #icantbelievethis #isthisfacts #omfg #youwouldnotbelieveyoureyes #thatsnotcool #policeinvestigation #youtube #yelp #pleasehelp #karen #karenwaitress #cantbelievethishappened #SiouxFallsSouthDakota #police #needhelp #youwouldntbelieve
Denny’s said it was investigating the situation and the waitress in question has been fired, but the response has been insufficient, Madera and Whitfield said in a press conference earlier this month.
They say they want to make sure Denny’s publicly accepts responsibility and takes steps to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
The men’s lawyers said Denny’s has thoroughly mishandled the situation.
“We are disappointed with Denny’s. Their response was perfunctory at best,” attorney Erica Wilson said before explaining that “this is an opportunity for Denny’s to be the poster child of how to get it right.”
Attorney Harry Daniels described what Madera and Whitfield experienced as “actually discrimination, racism” and vowed to sue.
“So the question, ‘is litigation coming’? Absolutely. It’s coming,” Daniels vowed. “We can’t go back and turn back the hands of times on what Hector and Damon felt.”
Denny’s history of anti-Black racism
The incident in South Dakota is far from Denny’s first racist rodeo.
Back in 1993, six Black Secret Service agents filed a federal discrimination suit claiming a Denny’s in Annapolis, Maryland, refused to serve them. That particular instance made national headlines and was so well known in popular culture that the renowned jazz musician Branford Marsalis (under the stage name Buckshot LeFonque) released a hip-hop-fused song called “Breakfast at Denny’s” the following year — just around the time that Denny’s paid $54 million “to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of black customers who had been refused service or had been forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers,” as the New York Times reported.
And in 2003, two Black customers took legal action against a Los Angeles Denny’s after they were asked to pay before eating.
In 2017, a Black patron at a Denny’s in Washington state claimed a waitress and manager demanded he and his fellow Black male diners pay for their food prior to eating. Palmer L. Pellham said the men were the only ones in the restaurant asked to pay for their food beforehand. He also claimed that they were forced to wait 10 minutes before being seated, even though there were plenty of available tables.
One year later, 25 Black churchgoers said they were refused service at a Denny’s in Lake City, Florida. Elijah Henderson Jr. said he was told his party couldn’t be served because the restaurant was understaffed. However, soon after another large group was seated.
In each of the above cases, Denny’s was forced to issue an apology.
But in the case of the Sioux Falls location, a marketing agency representing the restaurant chain responded to an inquiry from NewsOne about the viral video without offering an apology on behalf of Denny’s.
Instead, FINN Partners only said Denny’s was investigating the incident.