Chipotle fire and then rehire manager who refused to serve a group of young black men in a now viral video
Social media makes modern politics extremely complicated. We have all seen video evidence of men and women being targeted because of unfair and sometimes dangerous assumptions about who they are. Whether it’s in encounters with the police, or with civilians on public transport, you don’t have to look far to find a video of someone being treated horribly for no reason other than they look a little different. We all now know that these things happen. Pleading ignorance is not an option. All this makes the reaction to a viral video filmed in a Minnesota Chipotle all the more difficult to dissect.
The Tex Mex fast food chain have found themselves under fire this week, after a clip emerged of a manager refusing to serve a group of young black men as she “did not believe they could pay for their order”. On the video, the group can be heard incredulously demanding to know why she would think that, and subsequently accusing both her and other employees of “stereotyping” the group. The video, has since been viewed nearly 10 million times, at the time of writing.
Almost immediately, both the restaurant and the manager herself came under a critical barrage. The original Twitter thread soon had tens of thousands of users discussing the ins and outs of the case, with most believing that the manager had, either consciously or subconsciously, made her decision based on nothing more than the colour of the group’s skin. Eventually, the noise became too much. Chipotle took action.
In a statement released on Friday, the chain stated that "Regarding what happened at the St. Paul restaurant, the manager thought these gentlemen were the same customers from Tuesday night who weren't able to pay for their meal. Regardless, this is not how we treat our customers and as a result, the manager has been terminated and the restaurant is being retrained to ensure something like this doesn't happen again."
But that was not the end of the saga. It subsequently emerged that the person who had recorded the video had a history of speaking positively about dine and dashing, leading some to speculate that the manager had actually been right all along. The tweets, which have since been deleted by the recorder, included one which stated "Dine and dash is forever interesting."
The new evidence led Chipotle to completely reverse their original position. Speaking to Business Insider, the franchise revealed that "Based on our review, we have offered our manager her job back. While our normal protocol was not followed serving these customers, we publicly apologize to our manager for being put in this position. We will work to continue to ensure that we support a respectful workplace for our employees and our customers alike."
In a debate such as this, it’s inevitable that feelings run high. But, regardless whether the manager was right to believe that the group were the same individuals who dined and dashed earlier in the week - and there is little evidence that they were - we know too much about the prevalence of stereotyping in industries across the board to totally dismiss what’s on this video. Recent cases like the arrest of two black men in a Starbucks prove that, just because this one incident may be a little murky, the overwhelming evidence suggests that we need to be doing much more to protect groups who may find themselves unfairly accused because of how they look. It’s tempting to search for an easy answer and somewhere to squarely point the blame. Just like this case, politics is never that simple.