The Tale of Two Waffle Houses & One “Justified” Act of Violence

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There is something to be said for the state of blackness when you can’t even go to Waffle House in peace. In the span of a week Travis Reinking carried out a mass shooting committed by with an ‘assault-style rifle’  leaving four people dead in Antioch, TN and Chikesia Clemons was arrested in Alabama by the Saraland Police Department. Why was she arrested you ask? Due to the weapon many police seem to fear: blackness.

Travis Reinking fit the same mold and profile of most mass shooters as he walked into this Waffle House in only a green jacket and a holding a gun. The valiant James Shaw, Jr. wrestled away from Reinking gun that had killed four people. Travis Reinking fled the restaurant, leaving the gun and jacket, and was later found by police in the woods – thanks to an eye witness. Later that week, in an entirely different location, Chikesia was picking up her food order and asked for utensils. In asking for those utensils, she was told of the extra charge. Some reports say that she was drunk or in some manner irate. When she asked for a number to contact the district manager, the police were called on her.

It’s hard to decide what’s the most disturbing: the startling death of four people of color or the ability for some people to resume life – eating their hash browns and runny eggs as a woman is thrown to the ground, breasts exposed, and threatened to have her arm broken. The moment she protested paying for her plastic utensils, and that protest was not in a tone that was appropriate to whiteness, she was a threat. In the video of her arrest you can see the venomous malice the police had towards her—malice we have not yet seen used toward weaponized mass murderers.

The fact that we see no one other than her friend protesting on her behalf in that moment, in addition to the fact that her arrest was considered ‘justified’ by the police department are proof of two things:  (1) police are called in these situations because non-people of color have been taught blackness is to be feared, subdued or controlled and (2) there is nothing in or within black women that they deem worthy of respect – not even the right to her own body. Not being indecently exposed or her able-ness being threatened for items priced under a dollar. There is no video footage of the Tennessee Waffle House shooter’s arrest, but we can take a wild guess that it likely did not resemble this. We can go even further to state that while Chikesia is left to make sense of that traumatic moment, Reinking of course is being evaluated for *drum roll please*… a mental evaluation.

In the face of such disgustingly obvious injustices, we enact justice with our restraint. If an establishment has a history of maltreatment of people of color—we stop going. We don’t take our gorgeous, melanin into places that have treated our sisters or our brothers like dogs. We stop excusing restaurants and department stores for how they treat us. We report these situations to media outlets, police internal investigative divisions, blogs and bloggers we know, and we keep recording—and yes, we even ask for the manager, and even their manager if need be.

Believe it or not, Mr. Trigger Happy Tennessee had a bail posted until phone calls flooded in demanding that it be removed. We continue to use our voices to inch toward some semblance of justice. The time is up for us to accept being treated as anything less than worthy. If our green money spends the same way white folk’s does, then we need not find ourselves on anyone’s floor, exposed, screaming and bruised because we asked why utensils cost 50 cents.


Jennifer P. Harris | Write to Live Team


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