Why Jenkinson’s panicked and accepted accusations of racism (Opinion)
You heard about the story of the young black girls being asked to leave the Aquarium store at Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant:
First the girls were asked to leave because they didn't have a chaperone, then returning with a chaperone they were asked to leave because the store clerk didn't believe the chaperone was really in charge. Right away, cell phones are out and there's a video of the store clerk telling the girls they were not welcome in the store. Immediately after the young women in charge of the girls from a camp in Paterson is crying racism, Jenkinson's panics and suspends the clerk.
Update, Tuesday at 5 p.m.: In the time since Bill Spadea wrote this piece, Jenkinson's has terminated the employee seen in the video above.
I get it though, only a few weeks left in the Summer and the store is worried about what group is gonna show up at their door effectively shutting down the business. Mob justice can be a business destroyer. We've seen accusations accepted as truth and used to damage otherwise innocent stores and workers.
When the story first surfaced, I caught some heat on social media for not talking about it. There was a good reason I ignored the story, it didn't make sense. A long standing store on the boardwalk not serving customers because of the color of their skin? In 2018? Seemed a bit of a stretch, especially after I saw the video where literally nothing racist was spoken.
I thought, isn't it possible with the narrow aisles in between shelves stacked with breakable souvenirs, that the store clerk was concerned about a bunch of kids without an adult? Is it possible the kids were disruptive? What happened in the 30 seconds before the video? What racially charged language was even used? And then the other show dropped.
A witness posted on social media that the girls were in fact being disruptive and, as so many Jersey shore clerks have done over the years, she told them to leave. Why did she not explain that on camera? I can't answer that, but maybe she was nervous and fearful about being recorded.
To be fair, we don't know exactly what happened. We don't know if the person claiming to be a witness was actually there. What we do know is that the Jenkinson's didn't know either. But beyond a justifiable 'investigation suspension', they issued an apology essentially accusing their own employee of racist conduct despite not having any facts!
Are we at a point in our history that the accusation of racism is accepted based on the color of the accuser and accused skin? Have we gotten to a place where we are guilty until we prove we're not beyond an out-of-context viral video? Even then the accusations and video live on damaging reputations, in some cases, beyond repair.
I understood the suspension. The store has to investigate and take the customer at their word in order to get to the bottom of what happened. That said, there is always another side of the story. Condemning the employee without knowing her side, essentially labeling her a racist until she proves otherwise, is irresponsible and wrong. Can we please wait until all the facts are presented before we hurl accusations that can never be truly retracted?
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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