Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Racist attitudes and deliveries

Hooray for Lowe's Home Improvement Stores! The North Carolina-based chain fired three managers after they acquiesced to a customer's request that only white delivery personnel should deliver her purchase to her home. A veteran African-American delivery man was pulled from the delivery route to satisfy the racist customer. When this narrative exploded beyond the store's walls, Lowe's supervisors took immediate action, firing the managers who allowed a customer to veto a black employee and who, by their actions, endorsed racism.

Prompt action by higher ups in the organization prevented the extension of racial prejudice in the appliance delivery business and saved the reputation of Lowe's. Kudos also to Alex Brooks, the white partner on the delivery team with Marcus Bradley, who had been pulled from his delivery job because his skin was too dark. Brooks, hearing of the injustice, refused to deliver to the racist customer without his black teammate.

All of this took place in Danville, Va., a city where I lived and worked for more than two years in the late 1970s. There was racism there almost 40 years ago, as there was in just about anyplace you name, but I never saw such flagrant exercise of racial prejudice as happened this week. Danville claims to be the "Last Capital of the Confederacy" because Jefferson Davis fled to Danville after Richmond fell to federal troops in 1865. He didn't stay long. The Confederate president was eventually captured by federal troops in Georgia.

I never thought that brief moment as home to what was left of the Confederate government made Danville any more racist than other areas of the South. Even 40 years ago, I would have been shocked by a customer saying she would not accept a delivery by a black man. That attitude should not be tolerated.

Given that demand, the delivery manager should have said, "Ma'am, our black delivery driver will deliver your refrigerator, and if you don't like his presence, he will bring the refrigerator back to the store, and we'll sell it to someone else, but you're still going to be charged for it. And, by the way, we're not going to deliver the white refrigerator you picked out. You'll get a black one instead. Just as a reminder."

No comments: