After a Black customer was racially profiled at a Chinese restaurant in Toronto and asked to prepay for his meal before receiving his food, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the establishment pay the customer $10,000.
May of 2014, Emile Wickham and his three friends went to Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant in Toronto, Canada to celebrate a late night birthday dinner, but they were caught off guard with what happened next.
The server took the group’s order and requested they prepay for their meals before receiving their food, claiming it was the restaurant’s policy. The demand seemed strange to Wickham, a York University student, and he some wanted answers.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, this is standard procedure, it’s ok, this is what we do,'” Wickham told VICE News in an interview. “We relented, but it didn’t sit right with me.”
Wickham asked other customers dining inside of Hong Shing if they’d been demanded to pre-pay for their food, but not one other consumer was given the same request.
“We immediately approached them about it, they didn’t even try to counter our claim,” Wickham stated to the news outlet. “They knew what they had done, and offered us our money back. We took it and we left the restaurant. We were dejected. I knew then that this particular incident, I would not let it go unaddressed.”
He continued,” As a Black person, there’s a lot of microaggressions you encounter, and it’s stuff you often can’t call out without the other person being like ‘Oh, it wasn’t meant like that…’ You second-guess yourself. But with this one, it was so blatant, and I had three other people with me and we all agreed simultaneously.”
being asked if I'm happy about decision, tbh no, more grateful that we were heard and believed. I would trade of this for the two hours of bonding taken away from us that night
— Emile Wickham (@emile_wickham) April 30, 2018
Hong Shing alleged in a written response to Wickham’s claim that “because of its location, the restaurant attracts something of a transient crowd, and unfortunately it was very common in the past that customers ‘dine and dash.’” They claimed to have adopted the policy years ago, but adjudicator Esi Codjoe concluded that there was no substantiating evidence of such policy and that the restaurant staff violated section 1 of the province’s human-rights code – which guarantees equal treatment when accessing goods, services and facilities – and treated Mr. Wickham as “a potential thief in waiting.”
“His mere presence as a Black man in a restaurant was presumed to be sufficient evidence of his presumed propensity to engage in criminal behavior,” Codjoe wrote.
Wickham admitted he was treated like a second-class citizen and said “no matter how well dressed or educated or spoken you may be you are still just seen as a “nigger.'”
“Through this whole thing, they’ve shown a complete disregard for wanting to sit down and understand how we were feeling, and for me, that is disappointing… I’ve seen the backlash against them, and I can’t feel sorry for them because I know how much they’ve avoided addressing this situation,” the York University Alum said.
He concluded that “Black racism” is an everyday struggle and hopes “for a conversation about racism and profiling beyond this incident.”
“It happens when we interact with an immigration officer, when we go to the unemployment office when we go to the dental office. Canadians need to understand how they themselves could be contributing to this,” Wickham said.