The bizarre episode in Portland, Oregon, in which two bakery employees were fired for following store policy because their doing so upset a black activist, and the establishment is so self-righteously “woke” that her demands were deemed sufficient to make injustice mandatory, has received almost no national publicity. I presume this is because it illustrates the worst of progressive logic, group preference, and hubris to a nauseating extent. Almost as awful as the Back to Eden bakery’s mistreatment of its employees are the addled statements of its owners, which betray an increasingly common (I wish I could write “rare”) certitude of a standard-issue social justice warrior’s virtue, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Here is johnburger2013’s fascinating analysis of this mess in his Comment of the Day on the post,When Businesses Have No Principles, No Courage, And The Community Likes It That Way….
This story is fascinating on so many levels, from all angles: legal, business practices, ethics, public relations damage control, and a whole host of other areas. Thankfully, geometry and nationalized medical care were spared.
From the outset, it seems kind of dumb to deny a patron pastry at 9:06 p.m. because of a rigid application of store hours. This is a bakery and the business of a bakery is sell baked goods. Any sale of a baked good is a good sale, no?
Yet, if the bakery declares the store hours, the employees should not necessarily be punished for enforcing that policy. Otherwise, you would have people coming and going at all hours and the employees would have to stay beyond their shifts, which may result in hardships on them and others the employees depend on. For instance, if a child is at daycare, there may be an additional fee payable to the daycare because the employee arrived late to pick up the child. Termination of the employees for enforcing the store’s hours seems cruel, harsh, and unfair to the employees.
How this situation spiraled out of control is truly amazing. At first, I thought the fired employees posted about it; then, I learned the Lillian, the Perpetually Aggrieved, posted videos she took from outside the bakery on her Facebook feed, which then went viral. Many Facebookers banded together in a quasi-online lynch mob and filled the bakery’s Facebook page with love letters and messages.
The owners, dreaming of gluten free cookies, awoke to a public relations nightmare. One of the owners contacted Lillian via Facebook Messenger to try to apologize and resolve the problem (without knowing the real facts); though well-intentioned, he stepped into a virtual hornets’ nest. He then tried to make further amends by writing a preliminary statement, which failed miserably. His response: a 3400 word statement, which he subsequently deleted. Here is a link I found on a site called “The Way Back Machine”* that includes the bakery’s initial statement and the update:
The two statements, taken together are a brilliant lesson in multiculturalism, diversity, virtue signaling, damage control failures, capitulation to The Mob, sacrificing someone for the Greater Good, and the ranking order of privilege and standing in the Grievance Industry.
The initial statement had this little gem:
“Back to Eden Bakery is 100% committed to being a welcoming and supportive environment for all customers who share our values of inclusivity (sic?) and dismantling the white supremacist hetero-patriarchy.”
“First and foremost, we have let the two staff members go immediately as there will never be room in our organization for anyone who is inclined to give such poor customer service. . . Whatever their reason for denying you service is not acceptable and flies directly in the face of the experience we aim to provide our customers.” (That last sentence is awkward.)
So, two employees are whacked because they denied service to a Grievance Warrior of Color. Shouldn’t they have been whacked for denying services to the white patrons, as well? Seems fair, no?
And, then there is this:
“But we also recognize that simply firing the employees in question is not nearly enough to fully address the incident. Even though a very large portion of our staff are women of color and/or members of the LGBTQPOC (Ed. Note: is that acronym getting longer with addition of new letters?) community it is clear that we obviously have some more work to do to make sure that every single person we employ upholds our values and commitments.” Apparently, those values include doing “business in a gentrified neighborhood in a racist city within a racist state of a racist country.” Nice. Portland, Oregon, is the new headquarters for the KKK and the White Nationalist Party.
The take away from those paragraphs is that the bakery is in the business of addressing centuries, nay millenia, of social injustice up for enforcing store closing hours based on the mere suggestion that doing so has a disparate impact on people of color. Will there be a new closing policy? Will that new closing policy require a meeting of the employees to discuss what negative impact closing at 9:10 pm will have on people of color? Should they discuss closing at 9:15? 9:20?
Will the management provide a training session where the employees will learn that they must not deny after-closing hours service to any patron until the employees have reviewed and agreed that appropriate boxes on the Bakery Diversity Product Acquisition Form have been met? Does the Bakery Diversity Product Acquisition Form contain a sliding scale? If only one boxed is checked, employees may deny service after 2 minutes of closing; if two or more are checked, then an additional minute must be added to the patron’s constitutional right to acquire pastry after the official closing time?
In that second statement, the owners wrote this:
“At a base level, Lillian, a proud Black woman who has roots in the Alberta neighborhood and has seen it systematically gentrified (Ed. Note: there’s that word again) over the years by property owners and businesses like ours, chose to patron our bakery for the first time trusting that our company is who it portends to be and was denied service while the room is filled with white people getting served their vegan treats without incident.”
The cynic in me suggests that Lillian had ulterior motives as she is probably in the business of stoke racial tensions for her own gain. Anyone who is described as “professional equity activist” probably has a history of incidents. Perhaps she was predisposed to perceive as racist an inconvenience. But, according to the owners, “[s]ometimes impact outweighs intent[.]” Lillian felt discriminated against; that is all that is needed. Hence, the employees were fired, and while their identities are not disclosed, they have been humiliated by the online posts.
The second message includes a detailing of the video timeline:
“Since people are seeking the precise details of what occurred here is what we were able to view in Thursday night’s security camera footage:
“-At 9:02 pm we were unusually busy for closing time which is stated as 9pm everywhere that our hours appear. Most of the seats were filled and there were four people in line waiting to be served.
“-At 9:03 pm our employee turns the “Open” sign light off.
“-At 9:04 pm two more white women walk in and line up to be served. At this point the customers present are informed that we are officially closed. (Ed. Note: the statement does not clarify if these women were served or if they left. If they were served, then it was not fair to Lillian; if they were denied service, then Lillian should take her videos and go away.)
“-At 9:06 pm Lillian enters and stands in line to be served assuming given how many people are still inside and the doors unlocked that we are still open. Lillian is told we are closed and the last two women in line are the last to be served. After that she exits the building and begins taking her first video.
“Lillian’s videos came to my attention when I awoke to feed our dogs at 6am and I immediately began pulling our management team together around the issue. . . .”
This is the new normal: “Making her story public was a powerful move on her part and while it is giving us a lot of growing pains we are thankful that she was able to document her experience and garner support far and wide because prejudicial treatment is a reality for Black and brown people that none of us can ignore. ”
The owners systematically endorsed, validated, and promoted mob rule and online shaming. Rather than have a customer contact them directly about the problem, the Perpetually Aggrieved need only post unflattering videos online for all the world to see and allow The Furies will do their stuff, and management will capitulate to appease them: they fired the two female (wait – doesn’t that assume the employees’ gender?) employees, in their words, “[s]ince both Lillian and the clamoring public were demanding that these staff members be fired.” Two employees were sacrificed to please Lillian and The Mob. That didn’t work, did it?
The longer statement concludes, “But no matter how long it takes Back to Eden Bakery is in this fight for equity and justice for the long haul and will do everything within its power to foster the ‘Beloved Community’ Dr. King so beautifully envisioned.”
When in doubt, throw in Martin Luther King, Jr., at whose name all should genuflect.