Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dr. Story Gets Public Apology

It's a better late than never story, but yesterday U of L professor Dr. Kaila Story finally received her apology for racist and sexist remarks hurled at her and several U of L students by the owner of a local bar called Woody's.

I have much love for Dr. Story. She's the Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, with a joint appointment in the Department of Pan-African Studies. She also holds the Audre Lorde Chair in Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

But to bring y'all up to speed on what transpired here in Da Ville, last year Dr. Story along with a group of four Black GLBT friends was visiting the bar which is near the U of L campus.

She and the group were playing pool when two unleashed dogs charged into the room barking. Dr. Story was startled by the unexpected entrance of the dogs and jumped on the pool table.

The owner of the dogs was Woody's owner David Norton. He began berating her, remarking that he didn’t like “big girls” on his pool table.

That triggered an argument that spilled out into the street. Norton followed the group outside while hurling epithets, calling them “cunts,” “bitches,” “niggers” and other racist and sexist slurs.

The incident happened about the same time that a local McDonald's on Market Street hurled anti gay slurs at two white gay patrons.

Predictably the reaction of the local GLBT community was a night and day one. A protest was quickly initiated and the ACLU was called in. It resulted in a $2000 settlement paid to both of the offended persons and sensitivity training for 30 local McDonald's restaurants.

Dr. Story's situation struggled just to get the same level of action and attention since it uncomfortably highlighted the internal racism many Black GLBT people face from other GLBT people.

Norton tried to deny the incident happened, but with the May resolution of the McDonald's incident, new Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman along with the University of Louisville's Director of LGBT Services Brian Burford revisited what happened at Woody's.

Burford wrote a letter that was posted to the Fairness Campaign website calling for Norton to apologize. He also noted the lack of GLBT community response vis-a-vis the McDonald's case

“I would’ve liked to have seen some greater response to what happened at Woody’s,” “I wished people would have boycotted. Individuals did, but in terms of an organized effort, there wasn’t one.”

Chris Hartman lamented the lost opportunity as well in the Woody's situation.

“Discrimination is discrimination. Any sort against any people is absolutely unacceptable and we will not allow it to go silently by,” says Hartman, who is now urging Norton to apologize. “It’s deplorable to continue to not offer an apology.”

Hartman also stated in the Fairness press release, “We hope this apology will begin a process of healing and reconciliation,” shared Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman. “This incident, however, must continue to shed light on the fact that racism pervades every community in America, including our own LGBTQ community, that any form of discrimination hurts everyone, and that no act of discrimination may go unchallenged.”

Hopefully the apology that finally occurred with the news cameras rolling yesterday will begin to jump start that process of reconciliation.

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