Hypothetical question: Let’s say you work at a bakery. Let’s say the bakery closes at 9:00. Let’s say a prospective customer comes in at 9:06. Do you serve that person? If the customer is black, and you don’t serve them, then you get fired. At least that’s how it’s playing out for two employees who have been fired from the Back To Eden Bakery in Portland (of course).
Two employees of a bakery in Northeast Portland were fired earlier this month for denying a black woman service because the business had closed.
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“Back To Eden Bakery” released several public apologies and statements following the incident, before letting the employees go. In one Facebook post, the bakery’s co-owner wrote, “We are doing business in a gentrified neighborhood in a racist city within a racist state of a racist country.”
In one statement, “Back To Eden Bakery” says that according to its own surveillance video, a black woman named “Lillian”, who is well known in the area as a “professional equity activist”, entered at 9:06 p.m., after the bakery’s closing time. Employees had also turned off the “Open” sign, but several customers (all white) who had already ordered were still inside. Two other white women who went to the bakery two minutes before “Lillian”, and were also informed that the business was closed for the night.
The bakery says “Lillian” left the store briefly and began recording video.
The bakery’s statement says that even though it does not consider the employees to be racist and that they were following the business’s protocol of closing at 9 p.m., they were fired because “sometimes impact outweighs intent.” The bakery also says in the statement that the way the employees went about denying the woman service, “lacked sensitivity and understanding of the racial implications at work.”
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In the statement “Back To Eden” says the employees were fired because the woman and the “clamoring public” demanded they be fired.
In one statement, the bakery admitted that the employees did not necessarily do anything wrong, “this is more about how a black woman was made to feel” at the business.
That statements have since been deleted.
Back To Eden Bakery has made several long, rambling facebook posts about the incident:
1. Why is Back to Eden censoring its Facebook page?
Our business is under full assault by the Alt-Right and people fueled by their own white supremacy. We have been getting hundreds of calls, emails, DM’s, negative reviews and vitriolic comments from people all over the globe with no connection to Portland or our business. The original post was removed because the number of trolls that were flocking to it was more than we could effectively manage. We took screenshots and know that many others did as well. These comments are not simply critical of our actions (we can handle that) but they are meant to be intimidating and dehumanizing to everyone involved. Our employees and the community that is attempting to support and/or actually dialogue with us is feeling unsafe and we have an obligation to them. We are anti-censorship and support everyone’s freedom of speech but will not allow any of our platforms to be a repository of hate.
2. Why is the Alt-Right targeting Back to Eden specifically?
We were mentioned in an article about Brown Hope that linked back to our page and
brought attention to the fact that we fired two white employees for denying service to a Black woman. Unwilling to look at the facts of the situation the Alt-Right is coming to the defense of white people assuming that we are “anti-white”.
3. Did Back to Eden fire two employees for simply following policy?
No. They were fired because they made a poor customer service decision to apply the 9pm closing time more stringently to a Black woman but not equally to the other white customers that were present. Back to Eden’s closing policy has always been “greet everyone who comes to our door warmly and make them feel welcome and appreciated”. Our employees did not do that.
4. Were the two white women that also entered after the Open sign was turned off served?
Yes. They were greeted warmly, told that we were closing but that we could happily serve them if they took their items to go. The Black woman that walked in one minute later was not given the same customer service. She was simply told over a crowd of white people enjoying their treats “we are closed. We can’t serve you”. After that, the two white customers were allowed to remain in the store casually chatting over the counter for an additional 10 minutes after all the other customers had left the premises. Camera footage shows all of this.
5. Does Back to Eden expect its employees to give preferential treatment based on race?
No. Back to Eden has a no tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and is unequivocally anti-racist.
6. Are Back to Eden employees expected to work overtime or late in order to accommodate anyone visiting after hours?
No. Closing shifts are scheduled under 8 hours to allow for flexibility so they can stay an extra few minutes if needed. They are paid for this time and this policy has always been well understood.
7. Did Back to Eden call the former employees “racist”?
No. We have no way of knowing what their motivation was for enforcing the closing time unequally. One employee was on their last day of a 3-day trial period, hired in an Assistant Manager position and that was their first executive decision. The other employee had been previously warned about making customers feel unwelcome. They made a customer service call that had racial implications and the level of implicit bias was something we could not ignore.
8. Are the employees going to sue for wrongful termination?
No. We were in our legal right to terminate their employment and stand by our decision. The former employees understood why they were being fired and everyone parted emotionally but amicably.
9. What is Back to Eden doing to prevent discrimination moving forward?
We have made all of our policies even more clear. We are scheduling Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity training as well as Anti-Racism training (specifically focused on Anti-Blackness) with professional equity educators. Our team is organizing around how to lean even further into our mission of truly creating inclusive spaces for community to gather around inclusive food.
10. Did Back to Eden hire a white guy to deal with a racism problem?
No. We hired a business consultant for temporary management support to help us stay on track during this difficult time. He is a long time business colleague who was brought on to advise the ownership on how to navigate the current crisis and moreover to chart a path for our company moving forward. We have 40 employees dependent on the jobs we provide and we are committed to their safety and well being. As stated above, we are contracting with professionals for the Racial Equity Education.
11. Did Back to Eden commit to hosting the Brown Hope Reparations Happy Hour before or after the incident?
Weeks before. We have always stood firmly in support of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities and believe that reparations are an important conversation for us as a society to be having. We believe in Brown Hope’s mission and will continue to support it however we can.
To those who continue to show us support we thank you! Back to Eden Bakery
The bakery owners had previously said that firing the employees had nothing to do with the pressure from the public:
The owner is walking back previous statement about how the two female employees were fired to satisfy demands from activists & clarifies that bakery only discriminates against “white supremacist fascists.” Via Google business review: pic.twitter.com/2TZtw2jy8X
— Andy C. Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) May 29, 2018
To make more matters more hilarious, Back To Eden is scheduled to host the next edition “Reparations Happy Hour”, where guilty white liberals give free money to black folks to booze it up.
Apparently Back To Eden Bakery decided to open late on May 15th, quite possibly to hold a staff meeting to discuss the incident how to be more “sensitive”. But what if a black woman wants to be served before they open?
The Back To Eden Bakery facebook page is full of leftist propaganda pictures.