This year we’ve seen a few instances of racial bias at restaurants reach the news, like an IHOP that forced some black diners to pre-pay, and an Applebee’s that falsely accused some black patrons of running out on their bill the night before. Starbucks is closing down 8,000 stores nationwide on the afternoon of May 29 to undergo racial-bias training for its staff, after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a business acquaintance.
Just because these few incidents reached the news this year, doesn’t mean these types of cases weren’t always happening, though. CBC Toronto and other outlets are reporting today on the discrimination case of Emile Wickham, who was awarded $10,000 in damages from downtown Toronto Chinese restaurant Hong Shing this week. The discriminatory action took place in 2014, when Wickham and his friends, all black, went to the restaurant for dinner and were asked to pre-pay. They were the only black diners in the restaurant at the time. Wickham, then 27, went around and asked the other diners if they had been asked to pre-pay, and none of them had.
Wickham and his friends then confronted the server, and were offered a refund from the restaurant. But he tells the CBC, “When we got outside, that’s when the anger turned to sadness and dejection. We didn’t eat anything after that, we didn’t go anywhere.” He stated, “I decided there and then that night that I was going to stand up for this.”
The payment was ordered by Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, “which determined the man faced racial discrimination in the incident, infringing on his human rights.” It’s even more surprising that this happened in Toronto, which, as Wickham notes, is “a city that really plays up its multiculturalism.” But as we’ve seen, unfortunately, this kind of discrimination can happen anywhere.