I’ll be damned if my request for a 20 regular, as I’m from New Jersey, was answered with the response “We don’t serve Black folks.” Ms. Rose Wakefield, 63, kept her cool under pressure better than I would have if I had been in her shoes. She brought them to court and won damages equal to 10 times my student loans instead of cursing them out.
The Oregonian claims that two years ago, Wakefield refuelled at Beaverton’s Jacksons Food Store. According to her complaint, she saw that attendant Nigel Powers, 23, ignored her presence and circled around to every other motorist that drew up after her. The attendant said, “I’ll get to you when I feel like it,” in response when pressed.
Wakefield reportedly brought the issue to the manager inside the station’s shop, who sent another worker to pump her gas for her. Powers said (with a giggle) that her being Black was the reason for his attitude when she finally had the chance to question him about it.
“It was embarrassing. After the decision on Monday, Wakefield stated in an interview, “I felt like a slave without shackles. The truth is that I am unable to remove my skin and place it on the couch. I’ll continue to be myself.
The Oregonian/OregonLive was able to confirm Wakefield’s call to a business hotline in court documents. However, according to Portland attorney Greg Kafoury, who defended Wakefield in court, the corporation didn’t save the tape and paraphrased it in a way that downplayed the racist incident.
Powers didn’t actually experience racism; all that happened was a ticket for breaking the company’s first come, first served rule. Despite claiming to have a “zero tolerance for discrimination” policy, Jacksons did not discipline Powers for breaking the company’s rules. He was let go afterwards for using a phone at work. He may now work someplace else as a racist.
The gas station sought to reach a settlement for $12,000 during pre-trial discussions over Wakefield’s lawsuit. Wakefield ultimately received a $1 million verdict from the jury. Her tale demonstrates that Black people cannot avoid unsolicited racism, even in the most trivial situations of daily life. But it also demonstrates that accepting prejudice has a price.