by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW
In Enid, Oklahoma, outrage has spurred over claims that a restaurant owner refuses to serve those with disabilities, African Americans, Latinos, and those who are LGBTQ. Gary James, the man behind the controversy, has proclaimed that he has the right to deny service how he sees fit.
James is the owner of Gary’s Chicaros, a restaurant and bar that has been in business for over four decades. James’ establishment has acquired a reputation due to his views about certain groups, and his discriminatory practices against members within those groups.
Matt Gard was a patron at James’ restaurant for years, and was well aware of James’ views about certain groups. Gard had ignored James’ antics until he found himself a victim of his bigotry. Gard stated that he was recently denied service at the restaurant because he is a person with a disability.
James claims that Gard caused a scene, which is why he is no longer welcomed at his establishment. Gard shared his experience on a Facebook page where over 140 people had left comments about James’ discriminatory conduct.
I wanted to share a few statements James provided for an interview on KFOR-TV News Channel 4 in Oklahoma City. From his statements, James stands steadfastly behind his actions, and is unapologetic about his views:
I’ve been in business 44 years. I think I can spot a freak or a “f-word.” [Offensive gay slur]
I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare.
If I reached over there and slapped the s**t out of you, you should be offended. But to call someone a “c-word” [offensive racial slur] or someone call me a bigot, that doesn’t bother me.
I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.
Well if you work, you own a business, pay your taxes, you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay at home and spend my money, there.
(Excerpts from KFOR-TV’s interview with Gary James.)
Learning about this story perturbed me not because a person with a disability was discriminated against, but the mere fact that Matt Gard, and countless others, had failed to challenge James’ offensive practices for years. It upset me that Gard finally took a stand when he was targeted by James. Regardless of your racial, ability, gender, or orientation background, when one person or group is targeted, we are ALL affected by the ills of hatred and discrimination.
When we chose to ignore or remain silent in the face of bigotry, our inaction sends the message that the offender has our support. The failure to take proactive measures does not just occur in small towns like Enid, they occur throughout our nation. We cannot continue to support individuals or businesses who openly offend one or several groups of people. It is our responsibility to report such incidences and refuse to spend our money at those establishments; those kind of acts speak volumes, and cannot be ignored by the violators.
(Featured headline image: Courtesy of Pimphop.)