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Debate around Menchie’s incident quiets important message about racism

(AP)

Protesters Tuesday called for a boycott of a Kirkland frozen yogurt shop days after its employees had a black man escorted out by police.

For 97.3 KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott, the incident in question was clearly a case of racism. But the way it’s been handled since then, by both the store owner and the victim, have left him unsettled. Worse still, Scott said he believes the rhetoric has overshadowed an important conversation about racism.

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“When this story first broke it hurt me,” Scott said. “It hurt me for him. It hurt me for Byron Ragland because I know that feeling. I know that feeling of feeling less-than in that time… so it hurt when I heard that story. And I have to admit, I didn’t think it was going to go like this.”

A quick summary on the incident: 31-year-old Byron Ragland is a court-appointed special advocate who was supervising a parent-child visit at a Kirkland Menchie’s. The store’s owner called police to report that his employees were concerned that Ragland, who is black, looked “suspicious.”

A few things unfolded in the days that followed. First, the store’s owner, Ramon Cruz, claimed the incident was not about race. At a press conference days later, Ragland said he felt a more proper response would be to make sure Cruz will be unable to renew his business license, and that Ragland instead should buy his store.

“Here’s my question for everybody: What is the goal here?” Scott said in response to Ragland’s statement.

Scott continued:

The goal, in my opinion, is that we can progress, so that we can prevent these things from happening again. Mr. Cruz not getting a store again does not progress things forward. Sometimes, yes, you’re right, apologies don’t feel that great. Especially when Ramon Cruz comes out and tries to tell us that it’s not about race. That’s where Mr. Cruz made his mistake, instead of just listening and taking accountability. But my goal in this, as a black man talking about this is, my goal (is to make us) more aware of these conversations.

There are two types of people with this story: There are those out there who agree that it was racism and there’s those out there that don’t agree. And that’s fine, you’re going to have that. But what we can’t have, is the conversation stopping. And when you make comments [about] taking the store and taking everything away from Cruz, then that’s where the conversation stops. And I don’t want the conversation to stop because I want things to progress. Like I said, the goal for me — and the goal should be for all of us — is that this should not happen again. And we want to get better at that.

Scott advocates for training for corporations and open conversations about racism. He also had one other suggestion: Friendships.

“I’m serious,” he said, adding that it’s important that someone meet and talk to people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures.

“Let me ask you this: Have you ever said anything that was wrong? Have you ever said anything maybe racist or sexist or said something you shouldn’t have said? How did you learn (it was wrong)? I can tell you how you don’t learn: You don’t learn by somebody pointing at you and calling you this. We learn by continuing the conversation. That’s it right there.”

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