Oregon Gas Station Worker tells Woman They Don’t Serve Black People

Screenshot:  KGW News (Fair Use)
Screenshot: KGW News (Fair Use)

As a New Jersey native, I’ll truly be damned if my “20 regular, please” was met with “We don’t serve Black folks.” Ms. Rose Wakefield, 63, held her composure better than I would have after being put in the exact same position. Instead of cussing them out, she took them to court and walked away with 10 times my student loans in damages.

According to The Oregonian, Wakefield stopped to fill-up at Jacksons Food Store in Beaverton two years ago. She noticed attendant Nigel Powers, 23, went around to every other driver who pulled up after her and ignored she was even there, her lawsuit says. When confronted, the attendant responded, “I’ll get to you when I feel like it.”

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According to surveillance footage, Wakefield took matters to the manager inside the station’s store who had another employee go and pump her gas for her. When she got a chance to ask Powers what his attitude was about, he said (with a laugh) it was because she was Black.

Read Wakefield’s reaction from The Oregonian:

“It was humiliating. I felt like a slave without chains,” Wakefield said in an interview after Monday’s verdict. “The bottom line is I can’t take my skin off and lay it down on the couch. I’m going to be who I am.”

Court records obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive show that Wakefield called a corporate hotline that day. But the company didn’t preserve the audio and summarized it in a way that minimized the racist encounter, according to Portland attorney Greg Kafoury, who represented Wakefield in court.

All that happened to Powers was a citation for violating the company’s first come/first serve policy… not being a literal racist. Jacksons claimed they had a “zero tolerance for discrimination” policy yet failed to reprimand Powers for violating company code. He was fired later anyway for being on his phone at work. Now, he can go be a racist employee somewhere else.

During pre-trial negotiations on Wakefield’s suit, the gas station tried to settle for $12,000. Wakefield ended up walking away with a $1 million award from the jury. Her case proves even in the most minor instances of daily activities, Black people cannot escape unprovoked racism. But it also proves tolerating racism comes with a cost.

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