The owner of a frozen yogurt shop called police on a black man overseeing a custody visit between a woman and her son, and the U.S. Air Force veteran said he’s more sad than angry.
Byron Ragland works as a court-appointed special advocate and a visitation supervisor, and he was overseeing a meeting with a mother who had lost custody of her 12-year-old son, reported the Seattle Times.
The boy wanted some ice cream, so they went to Menchie’s in Kirkland — where the mother and son visited for about a half hour while Ragland, who didn’t order anything, sat nearby.
The store owner, Ramon Cruz, wasn’t there, but he called 911 on behalf of two store employees — identified in the police report as white women — were “scared” of the 31-year-old Ragland, who is also a psychology student at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
“They’re kind of scared because he looks suspicious,” Cruz tells the dispatcher. “All he does is look at his phone, look at them, look at his phone, look at them.”
Cruz told the dispatcher that Ragland was black, but he didn’t mention that he had arrived with the white woman and white boy, although the “unwanted subject” report police wrote up indicates Ragland was legally required to sit near the mother and son.
“They asked me to leave,” Ragland said. “They asked for my ID. They told me the manager had been watching me and wanted me to move along.”
Ragland did “move along,” along with the mother and son, but he was insulted by the phrase, which suggested he was as undesirable as a stray dog.
“Store employees … told me that he had been in the store for a while and did not buy anything, and he was not making them feel comfortable,” police said. “(The employees) were both thankful that Ragland was gone.”
The store owner insisted the incident was not based on racial profiling, and said he also experiences prejudice because he’s Asian, but Ragland admitted that hearing a recording of the 911 call made him angry.
“You want to stand up for yourself, as a man, or as someone who was just doing his job, and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right,’” he said. “But in the moment I’m thinking: ‘I’m a black man, and If I start emoting, I might not walk out of here.’ And so you rationalize to yourself: ‘What’s the big deal, it’s just Menchie’s, just leave.’ But then later, you realize that you gave in — that you consented that this is the way it’s going to be, to always be.”
“Living this kind of mental life will drive a person insane,” Ragland added.