Progressive comedian W. Kamau Bell prompted a wave of criticism against a Berkeley cafe after revealing online that he was racially profiled and harassed by an employee while visiting his wife, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
“This happened to me and my wife, but this is not just our story,” Bell said. “Because I’m a public figure, I can help put the ball forward. This happens to lots of people every day.”
Bell wrote on his website late last week that he was kicked out of the Elmwood Cafe on Jan. 26. At the time, he walked into the eatery to visit his wife and daughter and some friends after buying a copy of Selina Alko’s chidren’s book The Case For Loving, an illustrated story about Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple at the center of the Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage.
“One of them asks about the book I am holding. I show her the book. Seconds later there is a loud series of knocks on the window of the Elmwood Cafe. They are coming from the inside of the restaurant,” Bell wrote. “I look up and see one of [their] employees staring daggers at me. The employee then jerks her head to her left aggressively and I see her mouth say something to the effect of ‘SCRAM!'”
The same employee allegedly told him to leave a second time before noticing that his wife and her friends were not bothered by him being there.
“In that moment, your employee delivered the line that has become an instant classic in our family: ‘Oh, we thought you were selling something,'” Bell wrote.
After Bell’s wife informed the waitress that they were married, Bell said, the waitress apologized, then told his wife, “I don’t think it was a race thing.'”
“Ummm… actually a black man being told to leave a restaurant because the restaurant believes that his presence is harassing four white women and their kids, even though there is literally no evidence to support that is TEXT BOOK racism,” Bell wrote. “It is so old school it has a wing in the racism museum, right between the sit-ins at lunch counters and a southern redneck telling a black man on a business trip, ‘You ain’t from around here, are ya, boy?’ My wife told your employee in no uncertain terms that we ABSOLUTELY knew it WAS a race thing, because we live with this sh*t everyday.”
SFBay.ca reported that the cafe’s co-owner, Michael Pearce, promised a “very public and transparent” response to the incident.
“We at Elmwood Cafe are absolutely horrified to read about the account of the event that took place this Monday,” the cafe posted on its Facebook page. “We have zero tolerance for racism. We want to find out exactly what happened and take all steps necessary to rectify the situation.”
According to the Mercury News, the employee involved in the encounter was fired. Bell is reportedly working on having a public discussion at the cafe with Pearce in the future.
[h/t Addicting Info]