16-year-old Amira Donahue was working the Saturday night dinner shift when she was confronted by a racist customer.
Right off the heels of Black History Month, we're back to our regularly-scheduled programming: casual racism. At an Olive Garden in Evansville in southwestern Indiana on Saturday, a white customer picked a fight with a black server and then demanded to be served by someone who was not black. However, that isn't even the worst part of the whole story. Following the customer's unreasonable request, the manager complied, NBC News reports. Thankfully, the manager has since been fired. Nonetheless, the server should never have been subjected to such treatment in the first place. The incident has sparked a conversation about how much work is yet to be done.
Amira Donahue, the server in question, was working her Saturday night dinner shift at Olive Garden when she was assigned a table with a white woman. The woman was accompanied by a handful of other diners, including two children. She became irate as soon as she realized she would be served by a black hostess. Donahue claimed the customer complained to the manager about her and one other black hostess. "She made comments about me to my co-workers concerning my race and saying that I should work at a strip club instead," the 16-year-old hostess explained in an interview with NBC News. "She asked if I'm even black and if I am from here."
The white customer then screamed, loudly enough for the whole restaurant to hear, that she would like to be waited on only by a non-black server. Instead of asking the customer to calm down, the manager simply complied with the woman's request, which was shocking to 22-year-old Maxwell Robbins, a fellow diner who witnessed the exchange. Robbins was so disturbed by the incident that he took to Facebook to document what had transpired that evening. He wrote, "I’m never going back to the Olive Garden in Evansville. A few white people come in [and say] that they refuse service from a 'colored' server and asks to speak with the manager. The manager without hesitation ensures that they will not receive service from a person of color. That couple should’ve been refused service for even asking something like that! It’s disgusting that Olive Garden's manager would allow that, especially with a very diverse staff."
Needless to say, his post sparked quite the outrage. It quickly went viral, receiving over 3,000 reactions and 1,500 comments. It was also shared over 2,000 times since it was first posted on Sunday. While others expressed their disgust with the whole situation, Donahue stated she was so upset that she began crying. This is, of course, a reasonable reaction. Robbins reportedly witnessed her reaction firsthand. He shared, "The young lady was in tears and had no one to support her. So I felt if I didn’t write this post, nothing would have happened and she would continue to go to work for a place that she feels uncomfortable at and unwanted at." Robbins said that the manager made the decision that one customer was more important than his diverse staff, particularly, two of his employees.
Following the incident, Meagan Bernstein, a spokeswoman for Olive Garden, claimed the restaurant had fired the manager after they completed an investigation on Monday. Bernstein affirmed, "As a result of our investigation, we made the decision to separate with the manager involved." Robbins thus updated his Facebook post to reflect the decision. "The manager in question has been terminated. It seems like Olive Garden made a massive effort to ensure that this will not happen again and one of the girls I have spoken to seems to be in good spirits with the company," he stated. "We got done what needed to be done and it shows that we will not stand for any racism around here! I love all of y’all and I just want to say she is the sweetest host I’ve ever met at any restaurant, I’m glad Olive Garden took care of her. I haven’t heard much about the server unfortunately, I hope she is doing much better." Hopefully, this incident has turned into a valuable lesson for the manager involved and Donahue is able to go back to work with her head held high.