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TX Man Sues Supermarket Because Black Clerk Touched His Groceries

A lot of people, gay and straight, think discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations should be legal, because we can always go somewhere else.

But would those libertarians stand by their free-market values if the bigotry was over race and not sexual orientation?

DeWitt R. Thomas of Hawkins, TX, is suing the owner of a grocery store for violating his civil rights and religious freedoms after an African-American employee bagged his groceries.

Earlier this year, Thomas was at the cash register at Two Rivers Grocery & Market in Tyler, TX, buying his weekly supply of pork rinds and Pepsi Max. But when he saw the bagger, Aaron Menefee, was black, he exclaimed, “Wait a minute, don’t touch my groceries. I can’t have someone negroidal touch my food. It’s against my creed.”

Menefee told the Longview News-Journal he thought Thomas was trying to be funny: “The first time he said it, I thought he was joking. Then he just kept repeating it.” After he realized Thomas was being serious, Menefree asked another clerk to finish with Thomas.“I didn’t feel physically threatened,” Menefee said. “I just felt verbally assaulted.”

The cashier who waited on Thomas was confused by his statement and ordered him to take his item and leave. it wasn’t until later that store owner Keith Langston heard about the incident: “I decided when I heard about what happened that I was going to file a criminal trespass against him” said Langston.

Thomas returned days later, and again requested not to be served by Menefee. Langston locked the doors to the market and called the police, who issues Thomas a criminal-trespass warning. Among other things, Thomas’ lawsuit claims he was “unlawfully restrained”—but he’s more concerned that he’s being discriminated against because of his religion.

No, Thomas isn’t part of some obscure Christian cult that debases racial minorities—he claims to practice Vedism, an ancient precursor to Hindusm: “Vedism translates into knowledge. I am not this way because I am ignorant. Ignorance is the enemy.”

Well, you might be a little ignorant: We checked, and Vedics don’t have any proscriptions on “negroidals” touching food or anything else.

Thomas claims he didn’t break any laws and is being persecuted because of his creed and religion. His lawsuit maintains that the criminal-trespass order is a violation of his civil rights. “When I go through (a store) and buy groceries, those groceries become my property,” he told the News-Journal.

For his part, Langston says Two Rivers is a private business and that thought Thomas has a right to believe what he wants, he has a right to bar customers who use “racial slurs.”

Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a racist nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket. So, do store owners have the right to ban customers based on what they’ve said? What if Langston banned Thomas because he told his boyfriend he loved him?

The right to free speech is a messy business: Exercise yours in the comments section.

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Aug 17, 2012
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 40 Comments
    • PornForPatric
      PornForPatric

      Sadly this stirs up memories of my own childhood. I had hoped we were beyond the period when people didn’t want us “dirty black folk” touching their food, just washing their floors . I hope this guy gets dragged into modern times and learns to overcome his beliefs about black people. Goodness knows, if he ends up in prison he’ll hardly be able to move without touching a black man.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Polyboy
      Polyboy

      Glorifying stupidity has put this country on a downward slide and all of the old skeletons are running free in the street.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE
      MikeE

      there is no “right to free speech”.
      my god talk about over-used and misunderstood tropes.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 11:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      The whole thing just leaves me speechless. Perhaps someone who practices Vedism could try to enlighten Mr. Dimwitt R Thomas about the belief systems’ true principles. Vedics appear to hold ignorance as the greatest evil thus leaving Mr. Thomas in an contrdictory position. On the other hand maybe it would be better to just use him as an example of the crippling ignorance we all need to work against. How sad to be so stupid.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Truth Wins
      Truth Wins

      Unless someone tells you what you can or can’t believe in your mind, this “religious freedom” argument is a canard.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • the other Greg
      the other Greg

      “Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a racist nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket.”

      He easily could. He’s disrupting the business with an unreasonable request (never mind for a moment that it’s insulting). What if there’s a day where the only baggers on duty are black? He’d leave the groceries at the register, maybe at a busy time, creating a nuisance and possible spoilage.

      Is an owner or manager under an obligation to accommodate a customer who insults an employee?

      Regarding gays, I’ve always been surprised we don’t hear about this happening in the fat Republican states, where the only time most people ever *knowingly* encounter a gay person is that obviously gay waiter at Denny’s.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Name (required)
      Name (required)

      There’s no ass like a texass.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • the other Greg
      the other Greg

      “Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a rac*** nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket.”

      He easily could. He’s disrupting the business with an unreasonable request (never mind for a moment that it’s insulting). What if there’s a day where the only bag-gers on duty are black? He’d leave the groceries at the register, maybe at a busy time, creating a nuisance and possible spoilage.

      Is an owner or manager under an obligation to accommodate a customer who insults an employee?

      Regarding gays, I’ve always been surprised we don’t hear about this happening in the fat Republican states, where the only time most people ever *knowingly* encounter a gay person is that obviously gay waiter at Denny’s.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Erick
      Erick

      * shrugs *
      I say let him have his day in court; it’s a frivolous lawsuit that will likely be thrown out.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • I won't grow up
      I won't grow up

      Lets just hope the judge throws this idiot out of court. He has no legal standing and should be counter sued for wasting the courts’ time.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
      PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

      “A lot of people, gay and straight, think discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations should be legal, because we can always go somewhere else.”

      do they?

      good god!

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon
      Jon

      Snicker…he said negroidal.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scribe37
      Scribe37

      I use to install cable in a mostly white area just outside Detroit. Most of the installers were black, maybe 80 percent. Most customers were nice, offering drinks on hot days, but sometimes you would run into the asshol*. My boss’s policy (a white lesbian) was to deny service to anyone who wouldn’t allow a black installer in their home or offer to send out two blk installers instead of one. Her support in these matters made all the blk employees very loyal to her and willing to do her favors because we knew she was on our side. Not many things suck worst than some idiot interrupting your work day with their racial, sexist, or homophobic rants. Everyone has a right to make a living and this prick should have been ban from the store. No shirt, no shoes, racist- no service.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Global Traveler
      Global Traveler

      If this bigotry is indulged what is to stop a store owner from claiming that they won’t hire people of color because that would make the bigots uncomfortable and therefore cost them business?

      Aug 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hf2hvit
      hf2hvit

      I bet he calls himself a “Christian”.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robert
      Robert

      He probably seized on the role ‘varna’ plays in Vedic cosmology. Low caste in Indian society usually correlates with darker skin, higher caste with lighter skin. However, it doesn’t map onto North American social reality unless you’re being obtuse. It IS true that a high caste (Brahmin) Hindu will refuse contact with a low caste Hindu, fearing ritual pollution.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hardvice
      hardvice

      First, let’s get this out of the way: there’s no free speech issue here at all. Free speech means expression free from government censorship or punishment. That’s it.

      Absent any other law, they can all do whatever they like. Racist douchebag can be a racist douchebag. Manager can refuse to serve racist douchebag. Hypothetical homophobe manager can refuse to serve hypothetical boyfriend lover. Free speech matters not.

      However, we have additional laws beyond free speech that *do* affect what private actors can do with regard to discriminatory behaviour. Specifically, public accommodations laws which were enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act prohibit certain businesses from discriminating against certain customers. This is enacted as commerce-clause regulation of interstate commerce and as enabling legislation under the 14th amendment. Additionally, states, which do not require an interstate “hook” for such legislation like the Feds do, can also enact anti-discriminations laws.

      Fortunately, public accommodations like gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and even grocery stores are covered for both race and religion.

      What does that mean? Well, the ignorant racist douchebag is pretty much always allowed to say what he wants, because he’s just a private actor. The manager can refuse service to him unless he’s specifically doing so on the basis of his religion. And there things get interesting, because it’s not the racist douchebag’s actual religious beliefs that matter, but what the manager reasonably believes them to be. It’s wrong to discriminate against someone because you think they’re Jewish whether or not they actually are Jewish, after all.

      I’m guessing no reasonable person would honestly believe that someone’s religion prohibits black people from touching their groceries. Therefore, the manager is probably not in fact discriminating against the customer for his religious beliefs, even if those turn out to actually be his beliefs.

      The hypothetical boyfriend lover legally gets the boot no matter what, sadly. Neither federal nor Texas law currently protects LGBT people from discrimination in public accommodations. It should; it just doesn’t. Many states have some protection for LGBT people; there are even some federal protections, mostly for certain federal employees. Many of these are by policy or executive order rather than by legislation.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hamoboy
      hamoboy

      Actually libertarians DO think there shouldn’t be any anti-discrimination laws against ANY minority. They’re not the brightest bunch of people when it comes to social justice, they think their “invisible hand” can sweep away any problem they face. Ever!
      Also what I take away from this article personally is that LGBT advocates should stop couching their rhetoric with the implication that anti-black/brown prejudice is a done deal and we should all move on to anti-LGBT prejudice. All sorts of -isms are alive and well today, and all advocacy groups should avoid shitting on each other just to get ahead.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • david anderson
      david anderson

      “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” Mark Twain.

      Aug 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a racist nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket. So, do store owners have the right to ban customers based on what they’ve said? What if Langston banned Thomas because he told his boyfriend he loved him?”
      __________________
      I get that Queerty wants to stir up comments on this one. But the issue here is….
      1. The man harrassed an employee. Any business has every right to bar customers who harrass their employees or bar specific customers for any behavioral reason. What if this man’s “Religion” said he had to vomit on all fruits and vegetables before choosing one to buy? That wouldn’t be allowed either.
      2. Funny how the rac-ist claims HE is being discriminated against….for not being allowed to discriminate. (What if every employee in the store was black?)
      3. The problem with the Right wing, is that they have been allowed to excuse any behavior in the last few years by lying and claiming it is their religion. IT is time that people stopped pretending that being a crazy psycho bigot was somehow a “Valid Religious Opinion.”

      Full story here: http://www.queerty.com/tx-man-sues-supermarket-because-black-clerk-touched-his-groceries-20120817/#ixzz23u0rhoK2

      Aug 18, 2012 at 9:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      Putting aside the fact that Thomas is clearly a rac-ist nutjob, there’s no indication he caused a serious disruption in the supermarket. So, do store owners have the right to ban customers based on what they’ve said? What if Langston banned Thomas because he told his boyfriend he loved him?”
      __________________
      I get that Queerty wants to stir up comments on this one. But the issue here is….
      1. The man harrassed an employee. Any business has every right to bar customers who harrass their employees or bar specific customers for any behavioral reason. What if this man’s “Religion” said he had to vomit on all fruits and vegetables before choosing one to buy? That wouldn’t be allowed either.
      2. Funny how the bigot claims HE is being discriminated against….for not being allowed to discriminate. (What if every employee in the store was black?)
      3. The problem with the Right wing, is that they have been allowed to excuse any behavior in the last few years by lying and claiming it is their religion. IT is time that people stopped pretending that being a crazy psycho bigot was somehow a “Valid Religious Opinion.”

      P.S. I had to alter the word rac-ist in the pasted quote from Queerty’s own writer. Why is that word screened when it was used in the original story?

      Aug 18, 2012 at 9:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      @hamoboy: said…

      “Actually libertarians DO think there shouldn’t be any anti-discrimination laws against ANY minority. They’re not the brightest bunch of people when it comes to social justice, they think their “invisible hand” can sweep away any problem they face. Ever!”
      ____________________

      No, Libertarians think you should be able to do whatever you want without any interference. Their response to somebody wanting to not sell food to blacks is “Well then if that upsets you, you need to go build your own store that doesn’t do that.”

      Aug 18, 2012 at 9:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shadeaux
      Shadeaux

      http://www.usaprogressive.com/2012/08/texas-man-tells-black-worker-i-dont.html

      I just moved from that area. Now I live next door to Jena Louisiana.., GO FIGURE.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 9:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 9 · I won’t grow up wrote, “Lets just hope the judge throws this idiot out of court. He has no legal standing and should be counter sued for wasting the courts’ time.”

      The nut probably does have legal standing if the Queerty article is the full story. The claim is that “Thomas returned days later, and again requested not to be served by Menefee. Langston locked the doors to the market and called the police, who issues Thomas a criminal-trespass warning. Among other things, Thomas’ lawsuit claims he was “unlawfully restrained””

      One of the accounts Queerty linked to ( http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/lawsuit-claims-black-sacker-ban-from-big-sandy-grocery-store/article_211e8217-acdf-5489-8915-8f6cc7900470.html ) stated, “He said Thomas told him he would drop the complaint if he dropped the criminal trespass,” so in reality, it appears that Thomas is suing because the store owner filed a criminal complaint against him.

      Now, the store owner could have simply told Thomas to leave and legitimately could call the police if Thomas had refused. But it is not appropriate to file a criminal-trespass complaint with the police if the customer was not first asked to leave. Thomas’ “unlawfully restrained” complaint may or may not be valid. Thomas claimed the door was locked because it was close to closing time and they wanted to prevent new customers from entering the store. When stores do that (and it is IMHO a bad idea as it puts customers at risk if there is a fire) customers in the store are of course allowed to leave. Thomas would have a valid complaint if he was locked in and prevented from leaving (i.e., they would not open the door for him).

      Some of those details – what actually happened such as whether Thomas was asked to leave and not come back – are not in the news accounts that Queerty provided. Presumably those details will come out if there is a trial.

      It is obvious that Thomas is not someone any of us would want anything to do with, mental health professionals excepted. But even loathsome characters have civil rights and should not be arrested for merely being loathsome. It would have made more sense for the store owner to simply tell Thomas that civil rights laws require him to treat all his employees equally, and that if Thomas doesn’t like the racial/ethnic characteristics of the guy packing his bag, he should take his business elsewhere. It is only if he refused to leave that a criminal trespass charge or warning would be reasonable.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KARUADAM
      KARUADAM

      Ho man please no more of the fucking Christian shit in the USA!. The only solution for Christian is concentration camps and gas members.

      Aug 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hamoboy
      hamoboy

      @Cam: Did you read what I typed? That’s exactly the result of “being able to do what you like”. Anti-discrimination laws against people are not part of the Libertarian ethos because these stop people from doing whatever they like.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 4:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jorel
      Jorel

      Major fail..this is why the black and brown community resent gays..stop comparing a skin color to a sexual preference..it’s not the same thing…the only way someone will know you are gay is *if you tell them*(they have gay stereotypes but that doesn’t mean the person is gay since it could be just the way they act or they are acting etc)..a black/brown person can’t hide their skin in a closet.they can’t act white.

      “But would those libertarians stand by their free-market values if the bigotry was over race and not sexual orientation?But would those libertarians stand by their free-market values if the bigotry was over race and not sexual orientation?”

      you are mischaracterizing what they are saying..libertarians don’t approve of racism..but they don’t feel that government should force people to associate against their will..libertarian say that a bigoted owner for example will lose business because SOCIETY would ostracize them by not giving them business and they are also losing money by reducing their pool of customers. In this example the business could ban the customer for being bigoted.

      in closing..stop using racism as a comparison..unless you are saying gay is a race now..a race that can’t reproduce but i digress…

      Aug 19, 2012 at 5:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Global Traveler
      Global Traveler

      Jorel
      Discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sexual orientation are both discrimination and they are both equally wrong.

      Unless of course you’re (not you personally) are willing to say that some discrimination is okay, say based on religion, but another is not, say based on race.. That’s a slippery slope. At some level we are all in a minority category.

      If there is resentment in the “black and brown” (what a term. You’re on your own with that one) then it is based on resentment and fear as is any prejudice. The onus is on the uneducated to educate themselves. Not on the rest of us. People of color didn’t get rights in this country without the help of a great many people who were already in the privileged class.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 9:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sam
      Sam

      The Vedic relgion clearly prohibts the eating of meat, drinking liquor and prescibes various ritual practises.
      Has the said dirty white dog, stopped eating meat?

      Aug 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NateOcean
      NateOcean

      Was the customer upset because the black man touched his groceries, or because he refused to handle his meat?

      Aug 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NateOcean
      NateOcean

      “When I go through (a store) and buy groceries, those groceries become my property…”

      Well, last time I went to the store, the bag-boy had everything squared away before the clerk even asked for my money. So, technically, they weren’t yet Thomas’s property; they belonged to the store which was conveniently bagging them in anticipation of selling them to Thomas.

      Granted it’s iffy, about 50% of the time they bag them after I’ve paid.

      But that doesn’t change the fact that Thomas is 100% douche-nozzle.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 27 · NateOcean wrote, ‘“When I go through (a store) and buy groceries, those groceries become my property…” Well, last time I went to the store, the bag-boy had everything squared away before the clerk even asked for my money.”

      Apparently this store owner lets customers fill the bags themselves because some like the bags filled a particular way, although most would rather have someone else do it. All Thomas had to do to get what he wanted is to say that he’d prefer to ‘bag’ his purchases this time without any help and leave it at that. Instead, he was rude to the store’s employees and made himself an object of ridicule nationwide.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hamoboy
      hamoboy

      @Global Traveler: No, what he’s saying is that racism hasn’t ENDED. “Black and brown” people are still contending with it in their lives, daily. Yet many LGBT black and brown folk are expected to rally behind the LGBT cause and ONLY that cause, because according to lots of rich, white LGBTs, “racism is sooo ’60′s, and gay is the new black donchaknow?”
      Most of their “resentment” is at white privilege raising it’s head again cloaked in the oppression of another group. This happened with feminism in mid-20th century as well. Rich, Ivy-educated, white women were claiming all these rights and privileges at the expense of non-white non-rich women, and expecting to be showered with praise for it at the same time.
      A true solution to prejudice and oppression (and it’s costs) is not to outsource it somewhere else.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tomas
      Tomas

      Bravo !

      Aug 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Global Traveler
      Global Traveler

      Hamoyboy

      We must have read two different posts. Jorel didn’t mention people of color within the LGBT community. As a “white man of privilege” I don’t pretend to understand the plight of people of color, gay or straight. Of course I acknowledge that racism exists within the LGBT community.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hamoboy
      hamoboy

      @Global Traveler: I assumed, because this is a gay gossip site, that any commenters not immediately identifying themselves as straight, or spewing homophobic garbage, are LGBT of some sort or another.
      Not to say I agree with everything Jorel said, just wanted to expand the point of their first few sentences. The word “Gays” is used by many commenters as a shorthand for urban-dwelling, well-to-do, media-savvy, white gay men, with the implicit assumption that anyone that doesn’t fall into that category is identified by the way they deviate from this “norm”, so when he mentioned “black and brown people” I assumed he meant black and brown LGBTs.

      Aug 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • skeloric
      skeloric

      Free Speech should not protect discriminatory speech.
      Simple enough.
      What a wonderful country if that would be upheld.

      Aug 20, 2012 at 1:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • cam
      cam

      @Jorel: said….”
      Major fail..this is why the black and brown community resent gays..stop comparing a skin color to a sexual preference..it’s not the same thing…the only way someone will know you are gay is *if you tell them”
      ______________________

      Gee, thats funny, Coretta Scott King, the NAACP, and Mrs. Loving from the case “Loving v. Va.” which legalized interacial marriage dissagree with you.

      It’s so Sad when NOM’s little minions come in here to try to stir up racial issues. Look, your plans were publically exposed. Nobody is buying your crap so give it up.

      Aug 20, 2012 at 10:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Global Traveler
      Global Traveler

      Thank you, Cam

      Aug 20, 2012 at 11:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      This article is a non sequitur. It compares discrimination against gays to bigotry against racial minorities. So based on the article’s opening statements, the story should be about discrimination, or bigotry, against a racial minority. Instead, the article is about free speech and a bigot’s perception that he’s being discriminated against.

      Then in closing, the writer compares discrimination against a bigot to discrimination against gays. The logic does not follow, neither in the opening nor closing paragraphs. The only sensible thing here is the news article sandwiched in the middle.

      Aug 21, 2012 at 3:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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