There was a time when racial incidents required, at the minimum, actual racism. Now all that’s necessary is the prism of ideology. And a case in point is a recent altercation at the Whole Foods Market in Oakland, California.
“Witness Says Black Customer Bloodied After Attempting to 'Buy Groceries with his EBT Card,'” wrote San Francisco Weekly last Friday.
“Black Man Brutalized by Security Guard at Whole Foods for Trying to Buy Food,” reported Yahoo! News the same day. It was another example of “violence against black citizens,” as a witness on-scene put it, in, apparently, irredeemably “racist” America.
Except that the security guard was also black.
A clerk the beaten man had conflict with was black.
And the on-site store manager was black.
None of the last three points would normally be remarkable, especially in Oakland, except for the fact that numerous news organs emphasized the beaten man’s race, clearly leaving readers with the impression that his was a racial incident. Just consider the Yahoo piece’s opening line: “A black man was beaten to a bloody pulp by a security guard at an Oakland Whole Foods Thursday night after an attempt to purchase groceries led to an argument.” Yet nowhere in the story does Yahoo balance this with information about the guard’s race. Nor was it mentioned by any other mainstream media outlets this writer investigated.
And all these sources relied on one witness, a white woman named “Dr.” Zoe Marks. Not only was she in the food store when the incident occurred, but, get this, she just happens to be an African Studies professor visiting from Edinburgh, Scotland (don’t say there’s never an African Studies professor around when you need one). In fact, she’s with the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies, also has a degree in “African-American” studies, and her bio lists among her fields of expertise “Gender and Development, [and] Gender and Violence.”
Professor Marks certainly made the rounds in the media. “It was a very asymmetrical one-sided attack by a much larger individual on a person that was just trying to buy some groceries,” she told KPIX news. She also posted her account to her Facebook page, writing, in part, “I'm sorry for more graphic images of violence against black citizens, but I was here and spoke to the victim (to keep him conscious), perpetrator, several bystanders, and cops.”
Perhaps she ought to be sorry, but not for the reason she thinks. In fairness, Marks did say the police called to the scene were polite, and the actions by the guard, assuming her account is accurate, may very well indicate an overreaction. Yet while she said she spoke to the “perpetrator,” she didn’t see fit to mention his race in her Facebook post and thus undoubtedly contributed to the media’s one-sided, pot-stirring reportage.
Moreover, that reportage often gives the impression that the shopper’s only crime was being a poor black man using an EBT card at an upscale store. As the notoriously left-wing Daily Kos’ headline put it, “Shopping While Black? Avoid Whole Foods. You May Get Beaten Bloody.” Yet there’s more to the story. Just consider this testimonial from a Yahoo! News reader who says she witnessed the incident:
I WAS THERE WHEN THIS HAPPENED. Here is the truth that the media isn't reporting. The incident took place at the Whole Foods store on Bay Place in Oakland. The man had a variety of items in his shopping basket. After the clerk scanned all the items the customer tried to pay with an EBT card. The clerk told him he has to pay for the household goods in his basket with cash, because they are EBT ineligible items. The customer had beer, soap, and cat food along with his food items.
The black man got very irritated and asked for a manager. A manager came to the register and told the man that it is illegal to use an EBT card for the purchase of the non-food items in his cart. The black man started swearing and throwing all the cat food on the floor, breaking one of the containers and spilling it on the floor. The security was called to escort him out of the store. The black man spit in the security guards face, and that is when the altercation took place. Fists were thrown and the customer got the #$%$ end of the stick. Not a single reporter or officer approached me for an interview. There were numerous cameras all over the area and I cannot wait until the footage is released.
And a reader at San Francisco Weekly (SFW) added his eyewitness account (reproduction of it found here). He says that the customer arrived drunk shortly before closing time, “sexually harassed several female employees,” slapped the cashier and spit in her face, spit in the manager’s face, and then repeatedly spit in the guard’s face upon being asked to leave.
For Marks’ part, she claimed while speaking to the Oakland Tribune that the customer “wasn't shouting at anyone. He wasn't violent or disruptive…. There was no threat from him to any of the customers or employees. (We) felt safe until the security guard attacked him." And she also clearly has a gun-control agenda. SFW reports her as writing on the Oakland Whole Foods’ Yelp page, “It's time to disarm your guards and put customers first.” And on Facebook she opined, “Armed private guards cannot be tolerated in our grocery stores and communities when this is what they do to paying customers.”
This is confusing. By “dis-arming” is she referring to amputation? After all, the guard is accused of beating the customer with his fists. (However, do remember that fists don’t hit people — people hit people.) What did guns have to do with it?
As to this, though, another interesting testimonial comes from Elise Ackerman, a journalist and Forbes contributor who shops at the Oakland Whole Foods and reports that Marks is staying next to her and has been giving interviews in front of her house. (Don’t ever say there’s never a mainstream-media reporter around when you need one to watch African Studies professors.) She explains why the store’s guards are armed: Crime in the area is rampant and “there was [a] period where armed thugs were holding up customers in the parking lot and coming inside the store and flashing their weapons,” she writes. In fact, Ackerman was robbed at gunpoint in the area herself in 2011.
Despite this, the Oakland Whole Foods has not only terminated the security guard and the contract with his firm, Admiral Security Services, but has said that henceforth no guards will be armed. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of advertising the store as a “Gun Free Zone.”
As for the truth-free zone called the media, deceitful, race-baiting reporting is no small matter. The biased coverage of the Trayvon Martin and Ferguson incidents, for example, sparked “revenge attacks” on innocent people. And the Whole Foods partial story is already having its effect, as #BlackLivesMatter protesters shut the Oakland store down for a time yesterday. It’s just more proof that #MediaLiesMatter.