We’ve seen an alarming spike in hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents since Donald Trump’s upset victory. It’s naturally made a lot of people wonder–are we returning to the days when hate and bigotry could occur with impunity? Well, this weekend gave us a big reason to hope that we haven’t fallen off that cliff. The owner of a Dairy Queen in Zion, Illinois had his franchise yanked out from under him for acting like a racist knuckledragger.
On Wednesday, Deianeira “Deia” Ford drove from her home in Tinley Park, south of Chicago, to Zion so her two kids, aged three and five, could see their grandmother. Her kids behaved well, so as a reward she decided to get them something at a Dairy Queen. She’s planning to move to Zion, so she believed this would be the first of many trips there.
WGN-TV in Chicago reveals what happened next.
Ford ordered a $5 box meal, but one of the items was wrong and another was missing. She asked owner Jim Crichton to fix it, but Crichton told her that wasn’t possible. Ford asked for a refund. She got it–and a lot more. Ford said that Crichton called both her and her two kids the n-word.
Ford, who is of mixed race, was stunned, and demanded the owner’s name so she could complain to Dairy Queen’s corporate office. Crichton initially gave his name as Bill Clinton, then Donald Trump. Ford then said Crichton told her to “go back where I came from,” and then suggested he’d take a picture to show his Facebook friends “what kind of n***r he has to deal with.”
As disheartening as this was, it was nothing compared to what happened next. Ford’s three-year-old daughter, whom she describes as “a little sponge,” asked her what the n-word was. Ford may have spent some time working as a dispatcher for the police department in nearby Harvey, but nothing prepared her for this. She came apart–but calmed down enough to call 911.
The officer who took the call had a long chat with Crichton. According to the police report, Crichton had no qualms about what he said to Ford. When told that Ford was willing to sign a complaint against him, Crichton harrumphed that he was more than willing to go to jail, and proudly admitted to hurling slurs at her and her kids. He also said that he was “fed up with black people,” particularly after two “of them” vandalized his restaurant.
Police ultimately determined that Crichton committed no crime. However, police chief Steve Dumyahn was “disgusted and discouraged” by Crichton’s behavior, and personally reached out to Ford to tell her that this was not representative of “the diverse community of Zion.” Mayor Al Hill also reached out to Ford, saying that it gave his city “a black eye.”
Ford took to Facebook with an account of her ordeal, prompting a rash of angry phone calls to the restaurant. Clyde McLemore of Lake County Black Lives Matter dropped in for a chat as well, prompting Crichton to call police. Crichton initially denied everything, even when the same officer who took Ford’s call responded to his call about McLemore.
By Thursday, Dairy Queen corporate headquarters had struck fast and hard. They issued an unreserved apology to Ford and her family for Crichton’s “inexcusable, reprehensible and unacceptable” comments. The company also issued a statement from a chastened Crichton in which he admitted he had “let my family, friends, employees, our system and this community down with what I have done.” He also promised to have his employees undergo sensitivity training.
But it was too late. On Friday, Dairy Queen ordered Crichton’s store closed indefinitely.
— Dairy Queen (@DairyQueen) January 7, 2017
Hours later, Dairy Queen announced that it had canceled Crichton’s franchise altogether.
We take this very seriously & do not condone any discrimination. Full response: pic.twitter.com/iDpAAIldpE
— Dairy Queen (@DairyQueen) January 7, 2017
Dairy Queen spokesman Dean Peters said that the Zion location would not reopen as a Dairy Queen unless there is a change in ownership. A Black Lives Matter-led protest had been scheduled for Saturday morning, but turned into a victory celebration.
Dairy Queen isn’t out of the woods yet, though. Ford’s attorney, Renea Amen, has received reports of other instances of racist behavior on Crichton’s part from both customers and employees. If Dairy Queen knew about this, it could face legal action.
For now, anyway, Ford is thrilled at the outpouring of support she received. She is still troubled, though, that she has to explain racism to kids who aren’t nearly old enough to understand it. The fact that any parent has to do this in 2017 is a disgrace.
(featured image courtesy Florida Keys Public Libraries, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)