A University of New Mexico professor believes racial profiling led to him being booted from a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant earlier this week. Now, he’s hoping to use the encounter as a learning experience for his students.
Timothy Nelson said he was waiting for his car to be serviced when he decided to stop into a Santa Fe Dunkin’ (formerly Dunkin Donuts) for a cup of hot coffee. After stepping outside then returning to use the store’s Wi-Fi, Nelson said an employee told him he had to leave because of a so-called “one hour” rule for customers.
“It’s as if saying, ‘We don’t need your kind around here,” he told local station KOB 4. “We don’t need your stuff. We don’t need all that you’re bringing around here …'”
Nelson documented the incident in a video posted to Facebook, which he later showed it to his students and his 12-year-old daughter, hoping they might learn something from it.
“I didn’t know if it was because I was black, if it was racism or not,” he says in the video. “All I know is that Dunkin’ Donuts all of a sudden has a one-hour rule. I have never heard of a doughnut shop that has a rule that you can only be in it — even after you pay for something — for an hour.
“At this moment we need to talk about this,” he added. “This is New Mexico, bro. You know what I mean? It’s New Mexico.”
Nelson, who is African-American and has dreads, said he was sporting an Army jacket at the time and admitted he might have looked unprofessional or “suspicious.” He believes things would have gone much differently if he was dressed differently.
“I get what it could look like if you thought I had bad intentions — but that is where the problem is,” said Nelson, who teaches Africana studies. “I don’t think I would have had a problem if I looked different or if I was wearing something different.”
Store owner Irene Duebel insists Nelson’s race or appearance wasn’t a factor in her throwing him out, however. In an interview with The Sante Fe New Mexican, Duebel said she asked the professor to leave because she thought he hadn’t purchased anything.
“I know what my policy is and it’s going to remain,” she told the paper. “It’s not because he was black. It’s because he was sitting here without purchasing something. If I went to the store, I would never do that.”
Duebel claimed Nelson became enraged and behaved like a “madman” when he was asked to leave, adding “he went all out of control.”
As for the “one-hour” rule, it’s unclear if the policy applies only to the Sante Fe location or if it’s implemented companywide.
The incident marks the third time this month that the coffee-and-donut shop has faced criticism for its treatment of customers. Two employees in New York were recently fired after video of them dumping water on a homeless man. The company was also forced to issue an apology after an employee at a Portland, Oregon store dialed police on a Somali woman for speaking in her native tongue.
Dunkin’ released the following statement addressing the New Mexico incident:
“Dunkin’ and our franchisees share a goal of creating a welcoming and hospitable restaurant environment and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We are aware of the incident that took place at the Dunkin’ location at 1085 S. Saint Francis Drive in Santa Fe.
“The franchisee who owns and operates the restaurant informs us that this incident resulted from a misunderstanding, and that she apologizes to the guest for the poor experience.”
Watch more in the video below.