Black Woman Accuses Michigan Restaurant of Racial Profiling

A Black woman in Michigan says she was asked to give up her seat at a West Bloomfield restaurant for a white man. The woman, who was allegedly refused service, called for the firing of all J. Alexander’s employees involved.

Lia Gant says she and her friend were at a J. Alexander’s restaurant on June 20 when they were reportedly asked to move for two white men. Gant said that when she refused, a bartender grabbed her drink and poured it down a sink, WXYZ reported. “I immediately got up and went to management, and she said I shouldn’t be upset because the drink wasn’t thrown on me,” Gant said at a press conference on June 24. She told reporters that the manager initially told her that she would not have to pay for the drink, but the manager then had a “change of heart” and charged Gant anyway. The manager reportedly told Gant that there were two sides to every story. “The manager was correct, there are two sides: the right side and the wrong side. In this incident, that manager chose to be on the wrong side. The manager chose the side that says ‘it’s okay to be racist towards your Black patrons, it’s okay to deny them service, it’s okay to deny them their basic humanity,” Gant’s attorney Maurice Davis said at the press conference.

“I was racially profiled. I was told to move out of my seat for two other white men to be seated,” she asserted.

Fellow patron Jerrick Jefferson said the restaurant racially profiled him the same night, adding that he was forced to clean his own table as employees watched, Fox 2 Detroit reported. Jefferson said white patrons called him the N-word after he complained to restaurant management about their service.Clips of the altercation posted on Facebook showed a white customer yelling at Jefferson and throwing food at Gant and her friend. West Bloomfield Police arrived at the scene, but the restaurant’s employees allegedly concealed the identity of the white man who threw food at the group.

“I suggest to all Black people looking at this press conference that it’s time for us to not spend our money with people that are racist. Racism starts with management. The managers at the restaurant are racist. They should be terminated,” Jefferson said. Davis said that civil rights leaders fought for Black citizens’ rights, adding, “We refuse to backslide into a nation where Black people are told to give up their seat to white people, where Black people are denied services at restaurants,” Davis said. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the restaurant “emphatically” denied the allegations of racial profiling and discrimination.

“The recent allegations of racial discrimination by a guest at our West Bloomfield location on June 20 are false,” the statement said. “Surveillance video clearly shows that the female guest making the charge of discrimination was not asked to give up her seat for white guests. The female guest was trying to save a seat for a friend who had not yet arrived, and she was informed that seats in the pub area could not be saved.” The restaurant said that it offered Gant a table in the main dining area but that she declined. Surveillance video, which authorities reportedly received, allegedly showed Gant sitting in the pub area for more than an hour as she dined with two acquaintances. Alexander’s also decried the “misbehavior of a male guest, who approached our manager and began shouting in a disruptive manner, uttering profanity and insults to members of staff.” The restaurant admits that as Jefferson and his family were leaving, another patron hurled a container of food at them.

According to the restaurant, surveillance video captured the patron who threw the food leaving the establishment after employees attempted to intervene. J. Alexander’s said that authorities had the contact information of the patron who threw food. “J. Alexander’s Restaurant has consistently adhered to a set of non-discriminatory standards that are as comprehensive as any in our industry,” the statement continued. “We are proud of our track record of non-discrimination during the 21 years we have been a member of the community and look forward to continuing to serve our guests with outstanding food and service.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.