By Ivan Fernando
Mike’s Grocery Store, a supermarket in Chicago IL, has begun implementing a controversial policy. Shoppers are greeted at the door and told they must sign their names on a paper before entering. The document, deliberately written in very small print, grants the supermarket the right to cage “unruly, loud, unattended, running, or otherwise disorderly children.” The children are kept in a cage in a back room and only released when the parents are ready to leave the store.
Every day security guards have been grabbing children screaming and running through the aisles of the store and locking them up in metal cages. The large cages include demeaning water dispensers which look something like those used by pet owners for rodents or hamsters. Children in the cages are kept behind a sound proof wall so that shoppers will not be disturbed by their screams and shrieks. Below the cages, the floors are lined with newspapers in case the children have accidents.
Although the store denies charges of racism, and even cages several unruly white children every day, the fact is that most of the children who have been caged are African-American or Hispanic. Those white children that have been caged, are disproportionately from low-income families leading to accusations of classism as well. This reporter would like to know, if the store isn’t racist and classist, why are most of the children it locks up minorities or from low-income families? Clearly there can be no other explanation!
I recently paid a visit to Mike’s Grocery Store and spoke with owner Mike Griffith. Mr. Griffith is a suit and tie wearing cantankerous old white man. I asked him how he could defend locking up children in cages like animals. “I’ll tell you how I can defend it. I am sick and tired of coming to my own store every day and seeing irresponsible parents letting their children run amuck. Every single day they were here, screaming, knocking things over and misbehaving. They were disturbing shoppers! Our staff had been instructed to speak to the parents and ask them to please control their own children. Guess what? In an overwhelming majority of cases, parents refused, and were offended that we even asked. I had to do something, and I did!”
I pointed out to Mr. Griffith that surely there were more humane methods of dealing with unruly children in his store. He replied “like what?” I told him I would have to think about it and get back to him. When I asked him to explain why the majority of the children the store locked up were African-American or Hispanic, he replied “That’s because they are disproportionately high offenders. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to watch our security cameras with me. I have documented evidence to back that up. I knew people were going to accuse me of racism, so I took precautions!”
I decided to view Mr. Griffith’s security tapes. After several hours of viewing, it did appear that Black and Hispanic children were disproportionately running through the store or creating nuisances. While forced to concede Mr. Griffith’s point, I felt unsatisfied and indignant. I asked if he had considered the fact that children from minority and low-income homes often suffered from poor nutrition, and that the sting of poverty and systematic discrimination no doubt caused them considerable stress. These children were simply acting out in the only way they could because privileged white men, like himself, had created a racist and unequal society!
As I continued orating to Mr. Griffith at length, attempting to get through to him and to make him see the folly of his racist and reactionary policies, he rudely interrupted me stating “You’ve got all the excuses in the world. No one is ever responsible for their own behaviour anymore are they? It’s bad nutrition, it’s poverty, and of course it’s racism. I’ve heard it all before, countless times. You know what? It’s just bullshit. You think I’m a wicked racist, fine. I don’t care anymore. I’ll tell you something though, I have received countless letters from shoppers all over the country thanking me for this policy and praising our store! Some people are driving here from hours away now just to come to my store, so they can shop in peace and quiet.”
I told Mr. Griffith he was a disgusting racist, and that he and his store made me sick. I asked him how he could treat innocent underprivileged children like animals. He shouted “If they are going to act like animals and their parents are going to do nothing, then I will treat them that way! Let them act like civilized human beings with dignity if they don’t like it!” Disgusted, I got up out of my chair and began walking out. As I looked around I noticed that all the store employees were wearing ties. I saw the smiling faces of clean cut young white boys and girls everywhere working there. The complete lack of any pretence of diversity made me physically sick. It was like a nightmare, all the vibrant people of colour were simply missing. It was like a twisted version of a Twilight Zone episode.
As I was walking toward the store exit, at what I can only describe as a racist and fascist grocery store, what I saw next truly broke my heart. A young African-American who only looked to be about 8 or 9 years old, wearing a hoodie, was throwing a couple of eggs around hitting cereal boxes innocently, just having a little fun, as kids will do. Suddenly he was grabbed and hauled away by two large and menacing white security guards wearing store uniforms. The youth bore a striking resemblance to Trayvon Martin, another innocent African-American victim of white racism.
Human rights activists have begun protesting outside of Mike’s Grocery Store, but shockingly, a roughly equivalent number of racists have been counter-protesting outside of the store defending its policies! Store employees were seen serving cookies and lemonade to the largely white counter-protestors, however no snacks or beverages were offered to protestors, in another example of the store’s vile racism! The cookies were white chocolate with macadamia nuts. No doubt the store’s racism has even spilled over into its bakery! Fortunately, in a positive development, the NAACP is currently seeking a legal injunction to bar Mike’s Grocery Store from caging anymore innocent children. Stores like this prove that racism is still thriving in America and remains our foremost problem, even under President Obama, our first African-American president!
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