Waffle House is in the news once more, and it’s not good for the quintessential American diner’s image. Thankfully, however, this time no one was shot or killed.
According to CBS News, a row erupted as an Alabama Waffle House insisted on charging two customers, Chikesia Clemons and her friend, 50 cents for using takeout utensils in the diner.
The incensed Clemons reportedly asked restaurant employees for a phone number with which to contact their corporate offices. The employees refused to share the number with the woman and eventually, police were called.
Employees described the woman to police as drunk, saying that she tried to bring alcohol into the diner and threatened to shoot the staff. That brings us, more or less, to the video that has riled up tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people.
The video can be seen by clicking on this CBS link, but be warned the content is graphic and contains partial, though nonsexual, nudity.
But those taking to social media to decry the diner with the “BoycottWaffleHouse” hashtag have missed a vital detail — two actually — that are game-changers.
First, police tried to get the woman to leave the restaurant on behalf of Waffle House. The video clearly shows them asking, ordering and even tugging at her in an attempt to get her to go. Second, another person, presumably her friend (the videographer) asked her to leave as well.
Those parts of the video are easy to miss, especially because the rest is so graphic, but if you stop to think about it, they’re quite important.
Waffle House is a private company that can charge for utensils if they want. They can even do it unfairly, as long as they’re not doing it based on a protected class (race, religion, etc). It’s pathetic to charge for takeout utensils, and even worse to be capricious about it, but it is their right.
(If you bridle at that a little because it doesn’t seem just, remember that liberty has to be protected, even if it feels yucky. Hate speech is a good example. The people who engage in true hate speech are despicable. But it’s their right to be hateful as long as in doing so, they don’t violate another person’s freedom.)
It’s also the woman’s right to be angry about it and to tell the restaurant so. But it’s not her right to squat on their property, which she appears to have very clearly done, despite the urging of police and her friend.
Everyone’s upset that Waffle House called the police and that the police ultimately used force. But what else were they to do if she refused to leave and they didn’t want to provide a free item? Should the employees have simply stood idly by, helpless in the face of an angry customer impacting business? This woman had the right to say her piece, and Waffle House had the right to say “enough” and send her on her way.
Another reason for this internet outrage is that it’s harder to see Waffle House’s rights than it is to see her being taken to the ground. Her violation of Waffle House’s rights doesn’t make a big impression on the average viewer, but the video of the officers’ intervention does.
Now, all of that said, it’s perfectly reasonable to boycott Waffle House if they engaged in a ridiculously silly business move to charge for utensils.
What’s not reasonable is boycotting the chain for exercising their right to have an angry squatter removed. After all, would you want to be protested against just because you called the police to kick an angry customer out of your yard sale?
The police also merit our attention. It looks like they were probably very patient (especially since the video abruptly cut to the takedown, potentially editing out much more negotiation with the customer). Still, threatening to break the woman’s arm is over the line (especially for a government representative), as is putting a hand around the front of her neck, which one of the officers appeared to do.
That accomplished nothing and only inflamed things, making cops everywhere look bad.
The final indignity in all of this was the fact that the woman’s dress fell down, exposing her chest. That’s a shame in every way, but it’s also more her fault than anyone else’s. After all, if you’re walking around thinking that your right to inconvenience someone trumps their right to be left alone, then you ought to dress for the occasion — maybe a button-down?
Finally, we need to acknowledge what’s behind all of this: entitlement mentality. We see it everywhere now, regardless of race, creed or religion.
To borrow from the old children’s song,
We all love our unearned rights; All we entitled of the word; Red and yellow, black or white; We all think our way is right; We all love our precious unearned rights.
With the self-esteem movement and postmodernism having yielded incredibly egocentric, egotistical adults, our culture now affirms the idea that we all have a right to do anything we want and hear only what we want. That’s not liberty. It’s narcissism — thinking you’re somehow above someone else’s rights.
Liberty properly understood is the freedom to do as you wish up to the point that your rights encroach on another’s. Anywhere past that point and you are de facto in the wrong because you’re suppressing their rights in favor of your own.
And that’s what the #BoycottWaffleHouse crowd is missing. This woman, very possibly justified in her anger, believed herself entitled to do whatever she wanted, including ignoring apparent requests that she leave the property from management, police and even the person taking the video.
That’s the problem with entitlement. It feels so nice when you’re exercising it, but when it meets the real world it gets crushed like an angry person being takes to the ground by police.
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