It’s been decades since legal segregation has existed in the America, so long ago in fact that the segregated buses and restaurants featured in recently shot movies about the pre-Civil Rights era South, like 2011’s The Help, seem almost like Hollywood hyperbole and overkill.
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Segregation was very real, however, and it seems times haven’t changed much at all. A video shot this week – 2018! – at a Waffle House just outside Birmingham, Alabama, has gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
An African American woman claims she was locked out of the 24-hour eatery at around 3am last Sunday morning, and she pulled out her phone to record the incident. In the video, we see her attempting to open the locked door at the Waffle House entrance. Inside, a handful of white customers can be seen enjoying their meals, and at least two employees are visible, as well.
The woman, Jacinda Mitchell, narrated the whole thing. “I am at Waffle House in Pinson, and they have the door locked,” she began.
“But they have customers in here and they’re saying that they’re closed,” she continued. “The customers are eating, they happen to be White customers only, and I am an African American.”
Fixing her camera on a cook and a waitress clearly visible through the window, she adds, “He’s in there cooking but they’re closed. The young lady that’s walking down there would not open the door, and they have people that they’re serving but they’re telling me that they’re closed.”
One of the white customers even comes to the door and points at Mitchell through the glass, saying something unintelligible, but undeniably ominous.
Local WBRC News reached out to the female employee in Mitchell’s video after it went viral, and they reported her comments this way:
“Her name is Shelby and she was nearly in tears sharing her side of the story. Shelby says they were short staffed so she locked the doors to clear a few tables. Shelby said she knew that locking the doors was wrong, but she felt overwhelmed and the decision was not about race. Shelby says she would have been happy to serve Jacinda Michell and she apologizes for locking the doors.”
The owners of that Waffle House location released the following statement, saying, “We are aware of the incident at our restaurant in Pinson, Alabama on April 22, 2018. We have launched an investigation to gather all of the facts.”
“Waffle House is a welcoming place for everyone,” the statement continues, “and we are fortunate to enjoy a very diverse and loyal customer base who we do our best to serve every day. The employee involved should not have locked the front door at all and should have certainly opened the door for the customer when she arrived. We will get the facts and take appropriate action quickly.”
Mitchell waited until Wednesday to post the video. What makes all of this even more ironic is that, at almost exactly the same time at Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, an African American named James Shaw wrestled an AR-15 assault rifle out of the hands of a white male mass shooter who had just murdered four people of color. He’s been hailed as a hero and undoubtedly prevented more deaths.
Meanwhile, in next door Alabama, employees and customers of the same restaurant chain seem intent on making America segregated again. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
You can watch Jacinda Mitchell’s video below.
This Waffle House is under fire for allegedly locking out and refusing service to a Black customer pic.twitter.com/f7nl2ne6cR
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 28, 2018