Has the word ‘racism’ been weaponized? (Opinion)
The ongoing saga of the Jenkinson's Aquarium shop incident, which had a clerk asking several young black girls to leave and a camp chaperone posting to social media outraged at what she called racism, has potentially ended with the firing of the clerk involved.
Now I don't pretend to know everything that happened before the short video that had the clerk 'Linda' saying nothing racist at all. We might all agree that sometimes clerks at the Jersey shore have to be aggressive to make sure that no one is shoplifting or damaging property - even accidentally. And we should all know by now that it's critical to understand what happened on either side of the released video to effectively draw conclusions.
You may have also seen pics on social media of what seems to be a security camera in the shop. Don't know if it was a functional camera and certainly don't know whether the store saw something that pushed them to fire the clerk. But I do know that there are multiple sides of every story.
Unfortunately in today's world, many companies are so afraid of the potential backlash from protesters decrying racism they are essentially bullied to react, terminating employees and announcing diversity training without substantial evidence to back up the claims. It only takes one out-of-context video post and the accused are guilty until they prove otherwise. And even if they turn out innocent, many still suffer with a racist label long into the future. It's no surprise that some people are forced into cowering positions desperate to make a controversy go away.
But what about the actions of people making accusations which often go unaddressed? In the case of the Jenkinson's incident, we know that four girls were in the store at one point unaccompanied by any adults. No one has denied this as a caller reminded me today. How is this not being looking into? Four young girls on their own when they were supposed to be chaperoned in a crowded area of the Jersey shore is totally unacceptable.
Then there is the report that the fired clerk had worked there for several decades, almost thirty years according to caller "Mike". I asked Mike point blank if "Linda" was a racist. He said emphatically "no". We have heard numerous reports from people who frequented the store that "Linda" was a bit rude and obnoxious. That may well be the case, but it doesn't make her a racist.
Beyond that, how long has Jenkinson's tolerated bad behavior from one of their employees? Did they look the other way? Did they encourage the behavior because it was effectively warding off shoplifters?
Back to the possibility of the camera in the shop...is there a video? If so it would be pretty simple to determine whether or not the clerk was justified in asking the girls to leave. At the very least, it's appropriate that 'Linda' asked about their chaperone, and that you get from the current posted video.
There should be no tolerance of racism in the public square. We've come a long way in our nation in terms of diversity and tolerance. But if every negative interaction between white and black Americans falls into the 'racism' category, we've taken a dramatic step back. You can't eliminate real racism if everything gets the label. Actually, continuous accusations and social media posts are seemingly making the problem worse. Fact-finding in order to provide context, especially if no racially charged words are used, is the key to determining the truth and addressing a serious problem if one exists. Did not happen from my perspective in this case. At least not yet.
I'm sure our friends at Jenkinson's only want this to go away. But if they got it wrong, then a former employee has to live with the stigma of racism for the rest of her life. It's unfair and it may not be true. If it is true, then perhaps they should've fired her long before this incident.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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