Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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On the Naperville BWW racist incident

Try as we might, hope as we might, believe as we might—the nation seems unable to erase racist attitudes and actions, as was made clear last week at an incident in Naperville, Illinois, in Chicago’s far-western suburbs, at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, where I have enjoyed many meals.

Mary Vahl, a resident of Montgomery, and her husband, Justin, visited the BWW restaurant on 75th Street, just east of Illinois Route 59, with a large party to celebrate their son’s birthday, the New York Times reports.

They were first asked by a server what race they were, which confounded them a bit. But, they were then informed that a “regular customer” at that restaurant was racist and did not wish an African-American party to be seated near him. After the Vahls politely refused to move, a manager said that another party of 18 had called, and that the Vahls would have to move. They left the restaurant and celebrated the birthday elsewhere, realizing they would have to explain to their young children why they weren’t accepted.

BWW has since fired the manager and others involved in the racist incident and has promised, in a statement, to provide sensitivity training for all Chicago-area employees and to ban the offensive customer for life.

We take this incident very seriously and after conducting a thorough,
internal investigation have terminated the employees involved. Further, we
have banned the customer who exhibited the inappropriate behavior from
all Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars for life. Buffalo Wild Wings values an
inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any
kind.

We have been in direct communication with the families to offer our
deepest apologies for any unacceptable behavior. In addition to a
company-wide RESPECT program we launched this fall, Buffalo Wild
Wings will conduct sensitivity training throughout our Chicagoland sports
bars in response to this incident.

Whether or not the corporation or its restaurants has the ability to enforce such a ban is a moot point, as the racism displayed can be found in many others, still today in 2019. The incident is even stranger, because the BWW host and one of the managers who sided with the racist customer are also black.

Didn’t see that one coming! Here are a few questions the young children asked as they left, according to Ms Vahl, who posted about the incident on Facebook:

  • Why did we get kicked out?
  • Why didn’t those people like us?

“The question then becomes, not could it happen but what can we do to reduce the frequency of it occurring?” wrote Denise Crosby in the Aurora Beacon-News. “There is no simple answer, of course, but one thing that has to take place are more of those hard and uncomfortable conversations … not just in press conferences or in church groups or school sessions or work training programs, but among our friends, our families and everywhere else we gather as members of the human race.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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