Culture

A Dairy Queen Owner’s Racial Slurs Towards A Customer Led To Public Outrage And The Loss Of His Business

by Penn Collins

January 10, 2017

When Deianeira Ford took her two kids to a Dairy Queen as a reward for a well-behaved trip to Grandma’s, she had not idea for the abuse she was in for, nor the ferocious backlash that would make national news when it was learned that her treatment was typical of minority customers at the location. 

It started as typically as any fast food trip does, but when the mom noticed an omission and error in her order, she found herself subjected to a string of racial slurs from not just an employee, but the owner of the Zion, Illinois franchise. 

She first asked for them to fix the order. The owner, Jim Crichton, refused. Not knowing what other recourse to take, she asked for a refund for the botched order. Crichton gave her the $5...and an angry rant laced with expletives and racial slurs. 

Ford said in an interview with the Washington Post, “He called me and my children n—–; he said I can go back to where I came from.” 

Not content with that disparaging remark, Crichton took the verbal, racist abuse a step further by trying to document her and her family to shame on social media. Ford recalls, “He took out his flip phone and he said he would take a picture and put it on Facebook because he wants to show the world what kind of n—— he has to deal with. Then he shut the window and walked away.”

Ford speaking with Zion Mayor Al Hill outside the business.

Taken aback, offended, and unsure how to proceed, Ford, reduced to tears at this point, called 911 for assistance. A police officer, after speaking with Ford, discussed the incident with Chrichton, who had resumed his post inside. Remarkably, he didn’t deny Ford’s account of the incident when speaking to the officer. In fact, Crichton expressed that he would gladly go to jail over the matter, claiming he was “fed up with black people.”

At that time, despite Crichton’s assertions and statement, there still had been no crime committed in the eyes of the officer responding. Understandably unsatisfied with the outcome up to that point, Ford used her social media account to create awareness of the business practices at this Dairy Queen franchise. 

It appears that her initial post has either been deleted or made private, but below is a subsequent post she made soon after the incident. Her Facebook page features continuing updates and messages of gratitude since then.

Her initial post was shared by thousands, and some angry citizens even went to approach Crichton at his business that same day. Around the same time, Dairy Queen’s corporate office learned of the incident and quickly took action. 

As the exchange reads, the company was quick to close the location, even before public outrage had reached a fever pitch. Protestors flooded to the business in support. 

Crichton, realizing the profound reaction to and consequences of his actions, offered a belated effort to make amends, pledging the ubiquitous “sensitivity training” that many use to both prevent and react to incidents such as these. He also released a statement which read, “I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize for my recent words and actions. I have let my family, friends, employees, our system and this community down with what I have done.”

However, this statement came only after he said in an interview with the Lake County News-Sun in which he described the incident as “99% lies” and “blown out of proportion.”

When Black Lives Matter protesters had arrived at his doorstep early on, Crichton told one man that “nothing racial took place,” completely unaware that the man to whom he was speaking was the very police officer who answered the call and took Crichton’s statement in the first place. The officer’s report read:

“He did not recognize me as the officer who spoke to him this morning and I reminded him that he already admitted to me what he did. He continued to contradict his story about this morning to me several more times and was becoming angered that I did not believe him.”

For all involved, the owner’s transparent and self-serving apology was an instance of “too little, too late.” 

Dairy Queen announced Friday that the location would be closed and Crichton’s franchise rights for this or any other location would be terminated immediately. 

While the repercussions for Crichton were swift and severe, they might not yet be over. Ford has hired an attorney and is contemplating legal action against the man and possibly Dairy Queen for what’s being investigated as a store’s culture of discriminatory behavior against customers of color. 

These types of stories don’t really have happy endings, but hopefully some satisfaction will come knowing that one person (with the aid of social media) can spread their story and experiences so that people can come to their side and help fight battles against hatred and discriminatory practices. 

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A Dairy Queen Owner’s Racial Slurs Towards A Customer Led To Public Outrage And The Loss Of His Business