AURORA – Members of a family who say they were asked to change their seats at a Naperville restaurant because of their skin color say they don’t plan to sue, but do want to see change.
At a sometimes-tearful news conference Tuesday where men, women and children who were in the group talked about their experience, attorney Cannon Lambert said the family wanted to push Buffalo Wild Wings and its parent company, Georgia-based Inspire Brands, to admit the episode never should have happened. Marcus Riley, Ashley Smith and Mary Vahl and Justin Vahl of Montgomery, four of the adults involved in the incident, spoke at the conference, surrounded by the 12 children who were with them at the restaurant.
“We don’t have to file a lawsuit because there is no need to file if there is no disagreement on this not being right,” Lambert, who is representing the families, said. “If you agree with us that this should never have happened then we look forward to talking to you further.”
On Oct. 26, Justin Vahl and Marcus Riley brought their family and friends to Buffalo Wild Wings at 2555 W. 75th St. in Naperville to celebrate one of the children’s birthdays. After explaining their group had 18 people rather than 15 as he initially thought, Vahl said the host inquired about his skin color.
“He asked me, ‘What race are you?,’ ” Vahl said. “I was appalled and astonished. I was in a restaurant to take my family, friends and kids and I’m being asked what race I am? I responded, ‘What does that matter?’ and the host said we have a regular customer who doesn’t want to sit around black people.”
They decided to be seated anyway, but then were told they had to move because the seats they were given were reserved. Their initial seats were next to the racist customer and his partner, and the group concluded their seats really weren’t reserved for someone else.
At that, despite having already ordered appetizers and drinks, the group chose to leave.
Distraught over the incident, one of the members of the group, Mary Vahl, explained what happened on social media, which has drawn national attention to the incident.
Now the family says they want to see change at Buffalo Wild Wings as they try to turn an awful experience into a teaching moment.Buffalo Wild Wings has announced that the employees involved that evening have been fired, but Lambert says the restaurant and its parent company still haven’t done close to enough.
“It is Christian, it’s spiritual to forgive, but as to whether or not we will go to Buffalo Wild Wings again, that’s an open question,” he said. “It’s an open question because we need to maintain dialogue. When we talk about being a good corporate citizen, we’re talking about someone, something, and this entity has a platform and we’re expecting them to use it.”
Lambert said that Buffalo Wild Wings needs to take some steps to eliminate the possibility that this happens again. He talked about a zero-tolerance policy for racially bigoted words and actions, the implementation of racial bias screening during hiring as well as establishing a hotline for employees to report similar incidents that likely have gone unreported.
“We’re going into 2020 and we still have to deal with systemic racism,” Justin Vahl said. “It’s real and it still happens. We hear these stories and say it doesn’t happen around here, but yes it does.”
Ashley Smith said she didn’t expect to have to try to explain to her kids why someone wouldn’t want to sit near them because of their skin color, but there she was doing so while other kids were enjoying boneless wings and fries.
“They are black,” she said. “But it’s OK for you to be black. It’s OK for you to be that way.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle
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