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Dori: We can’t compare Kirkland Menchie’s incident with Charleena Lyles

Byron Ragland at a protest outside a Kirkland Menchie's (AP)

Are we sitting on a racial powder keg around here? You no doubt have heard what happened at the Totem Lake Menchie’s frozen yogurt shop at a strip mall in Kirkland.

As the Seattle Times reported this past weekend, a guy was sitting at one of the Menchie’s tables looking at his phone without buying anything. After what they described as half an hour, the two teenage girls who worked there became nervous about the guy.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that the guy sitting there was African-American. That has become by far the dominant part of this story.

RELATED: Was this incident at a Portland bakery racial? You decide

So, the two teenage girls called the owner of that particular franchised shop, Ramon Cruz, who happens to be Filipino-American. He instructed them to call the police. For context, Cruz owns a couple of other restaurants, and there have been a few recent incidents at those businesses that made the employees nervous; just a couple weeks ago, a guy was apparently throwing around chairs in one of his restaurants. So the employees were nervous, and they called police.

The Kirkland police showed up to talk to the man, 31-year-old Byron Ragland. He has served in our military, is a student at the University of Washington, and also is a court advocate for court-sanctioned outings. He was there to be a supervisor at a public location as a mother met with her son.

So, did anyone do anything wrong here? That is up for you to decide, because everyone sees stories like this through their own prism. But let’s break it down a bit.

Did Byron Ragland do anything wrong? Absolutely not. I suppose the one thing he could have done is gone up to the employees and let them know why he was there.

Could the teenage girls have done anything different? Absolutely — they could have gone up to the Ragland and had a really simple interaction that would have defused all of this. They could have just asked him to leave if he was not buying anything, and he could have explained why he was there. But, teenage kids are not really good at that sort of thing; they may not have developed those life skills yet.

Could the store owner have done anything better? I guess — but he said that in the future, the employees will call him instead of the police so that he personally can come in and defuse the situation. That’s all well and good until you have someone come in who is actually dangerous. You’ve just put a target on all of your businesses.

Could the Kirkland police have done things better? I don’t know. They haven’t released the body cam. In a statement, the Kirkland police said that the interaction “did not meet the expectations of our community or the high standards we set for ourselves.” Kirkland police have apologized, the city manager has apologized, and the yogurt shop owner has apologized.

That brings us to Tuesday. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a black man’s skin, and I don’t know what it’s like to be doing your job and all of a sudden see cops show up because someone is uncomfortable with your presence. I imagine it’s horrible.

With that being said, let me walk you through the press conference that took place outside Menchie’s Tuesday morning. Seattle King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson gave a speech to the crowd in which he said that if Mr. Ragland had resisted at all when police came, he could have ended up getting shot.

Imagine if he would have decided to stand, just like Rosa Parks … We would have been fighting another Charleena Lyles, another Che Taylor.

Time out. To compare this to Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor is ridiculous. Che Taylor had a gun and led police on a wild chase. Charleena Lyles lured police to her apartment with a fake robbery call, grabbed a knife, and wouldn’t put it down. To compare the Menchie’s incident to them is a bit of hyperbole. There were no guns drawn. The police walked up to Ragland and told him that people didn’t feel comfortable.

Now the guy at the center of all this, Byron Ragland, is talking about wanting “accountability and restitution.” I don’t know what he means by “restitution.” The way this should have been handled is, the cops walk in and ask him what he’s doing. He tells them he’s a court-appointed supervisor. “Oh, okay, have a nice day.” I don’t know why it didn’t end that way. But here is what else Ragland suggested:

We definitely should boycott this store. Those two young ladies that were very petrified, they definitely should take a break from work, especially from the customer service realm. I think we need to make sure Ramon Cruz is unable to renew his business license here. And when the lease to this store is up, we need to make sure Byron Ragland has the capital and the resources to purchase this Menchie’s, and the two other restaurants he owns in the community. That would be a good place to start. That would make me feel a little bit better. That would be a look in the right direction. And that’s how you punish white supremacy and anti-black behavior.

Can a Filipino-American man be a white supremacist? I’m serious about that. Can Ramon Cruz be a white supremacist? That doesn’t really make any sense to me. But I’m not really good at the language that has become so widespread in our society as a part of victim culture.

So anyway, Ragland thinks he should get a payout to buy this Menchie’s and Ramon Cruz’s other restaurants. So we’re looking at, I don’t know, maybe $300,000. And Ramon Cruz should lose his business license. That’s quite a remedy for what went down here.

Again, I’m not going to pretend I know how this man feels or what his life is like. But I do know that we tend to take incidents like this — incidents that, two weeks from now, no one is going to remember, except the people involved —  and blow them out of proportion. And it strikes me, having had over the course of my lifetime, many moments that could have been destructively life-altering, that at some point you have to figure out ways to survive and thrive despite the indignities heaped upon you.

Now again, I think some people have more indignities heaped upon them than others, and I’m not going to pretend that I know how they feel. But I also recognize that when we have a dis-proportionality of remedy as is being suggested here by Ragland, that this is how we collectively descend into the acrimony and bitterness and animosity that everyone is decrying in our society right now.

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