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Dori: Kirkland employees shouldn’t undergo bias training

A protest was held at the Kirkland Menchie's in the week following a incident when a black man was asked to leave the store for being suspicious. (Hanna Scott, KIRO 7)

We talked ad nauseam last week about that yogurt shop in Kirkland.

In case you were out of town for Thanksgiving or just under a rock and don’t know the story, here’s a recap: A 31-year-old African-American man who works as a court-appointed supervisor was watching a visit between a mother and son at a Menchie’s frozen yogurt shop in Totem Lake, Kirkland. He was sitting at a table by himself without buying anything.

The two teenage girls who worked at the Menchie’s didn’t know that he was a supervisor, and felt apprehensive because of recent robberies that had occurred at the business. They called the owner, who then called 911, and Kirkland police asked the man to leave.

The victim of the incident, 31-year-old Byron Ragland, suggested at a press conference last week that proper reparations would be for the yogurt shop to fire the two girls, for the shop owner to lose his business license, and for Byron himself to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy all the restaurants currently operated by the yogurt shop owner. Oh, and he called the business owner, who is by the way a Filipino-American, a white supremacist.

Now we find out that all City of Kirkland employees will all undergo racial bias training.

My question is: should the media have to undergo bias training instead? Some of the local TV stations — which I won’t name — played the 911 call from the yogurt shop owner, Ramon Cruz. After playing the part where Cruz says that Ragland “looks suspicious,” they cut to a line later in the call where Cruz describes Ragland as African-American, as if he had made those two statements back-to-back.

The story line of this whole incident has been that the 911 call was racist. But if you listen to the raw call, the shop owner says nothing about race in his initial description of Ragland. It is not until the dispatcher asks for the man’s race 30 seconds later in the call that Cruz says Ragland appears to be African-American from the security camera footage.

If you just listen to the edited version of the call, the incident comes across as racist, as if the shop owner were equating Ragland being suspicious with his being African-American. But in reality, this is not how it was phrased at all. Cruz described only Ragland’s suspicious behavior, and the prior incidents at the shop that had the young female employees feeling nervous. He only brought up race after he was specifically asked by the dispatcher.

So — is that call really worthy of every member of the City of Kirkland having to undergo bias training? I would argue that this audio was manipulated by several different media outlets to make it sound like the owner was tying the suspicious look to the man’s race.

RELATED: Civil rights attorney says Kirkland incident is likely racist, but question is proportionality
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