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The One Story: HBCUs And The Gatekeeping Of Black Culture
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A video going viral on social media claims to show footage from a Denny’s restaurant in South Dakota where two Black men were seated before being denied service and criminalized based on the color of their skin. It was the latest in a long line of anti-Black allegations against the chain of diners over the past three decades.

The video was posted to TikTok allegedly by a friend of one of the would-be patrons, “a Long Haul truck driver” who was at the Denny’s “with his business partner,” a caption for the video says in part.

The nearly five-and-a-half minute clip opens with a white woman waitress explaining to one of the Black men that she was told by another waitress to ask them to leave the Sioux Falls restaurant or else the police would be called. When asked why, the waitress responded by saying, “I don’t know.”

When one of the men calmly said they were not going to leave because they “wanted to submit a complaint,” presumably about being denied service, the waitress told them men that the other waitress “doesn’t have to give her name.” They were also told there was no manager on duty for them to speak with.

Acknowledging that the restaurant was busy and crowded, the men said they had been sitting for 15 minutes without service and when one of them tried to get a waitress’s attention by saying “Excuse me,” they were accused of yelling at her. They denied raising their voices.

It was at that moment that two police officers arrived and escorted the men away from their table.

“They’re refusing to serve us,” one of the men told the officers. “That’s crazy.”

He continued: “I’ve never been involved in something like this before. We just came in here to get something to eat.”

But one of the officers tried to suggest what happened wasn’t out of the ordinary at all.

“It happened to me last week,” the cop, who is not Black, said.

Treading lightly, one of the Black men said he wasn’t trying “to cause a racial thing” before pointing out the obvious: “Everybody in here is white, and we’re, like, the only Black people and you’re gonna just kick us out like that?”

He added: “They’re serving everybody else.”

One cop responds, “I get it.”

But all the cops did was provide the Black men with contact information to Denny’s corporate office.

The video footage has been widely shared on a number of social media platforms. Watch it below.

A message from NewsOne seeking comment from Denny’s about the video was not immediately returned.

While it is unclear exactly when the alleged incident at the Denny’s in South Dakota took place, there is no mistaking that it was the most recent claim of racism that the restaurant has faced over the course of more than 30 years.

Stemming from a nearly identical situation that was shown in the TikTok video, six Black Secret Service agents in 1993 filed a Federal discrimination suit claiming a Denny’s in Annapolis, Maryland, refused to serve them.

“The suit said the six were among 21 Secret Service agents who went for breakfast at the Denny’s in Annapolis, Md., on April 1, after preparing for President Clinton’s visit to the United States Naval Academy,” the New York Times reported at the time. “The restaurant served breakfast to all except the six black agents, who were sitting at the same table, although a single breakfast arrived after an hour’s wait, the suit said.”

The episode went on to earn Denny’s the reputation that it wasn’t just racist but also specifically anti-Black.

That reputation has seemingly been validated over the years with similar instances, including in 2018 in Lake City, Florida, where 25 Black churchgoers said they were refused service at a Denny’s there.

When a man named Elijah Henderson Jr. arrived at the restaurant, a waitress claimed she couldn’t serve him because of being understaffed. However, soon after another large group was seated. Denny’s was ultimately forced to apologize.

“We were shocked by the unacceptable experience our guests received recently at our Lake City, Florida, location, and sincerely apologize,” Denny’s said in a statement about that particular instance. “We simply do not tolerate discrimination of any kind in our restaurants.”

One year earlier, a Black patron at a Denny’s in Washington state claimed a waitress and manager demanded he and his fellow Black male diners pay for their food prior to eating. Palmer L. Pellham said the men were the only ones in the restaurant asked to pay for their food beforehand. He also claimed that they were forced to wait 10 minutes before being seated, even though there were plenty of available tables.

Denny’s executives issued an apology and said that both the waitress and manager were terminated following an investigation.

“We are deeply disappointed and outraged by the situation that took place at our independently-owned franchise restaurant in Federal Way, Washington,” the statement said. “Denny’s has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. This type of behavior is unacceptable for any reason and is clearly inconsistent with our practices and policies. After a swift investigation, the employees involved in this incident are no longer employed by our franchisee and no longer a part of the Denny’s system.”

And in 2003, two Black customers took legal action against a Los Angeles Denny’s after they were asked to pay before eating.

Coincidence or racism?

This is America.

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