Supermarket apologizes in racial case

April 13, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

The managers of Eddie's Supermarket in Roland Park, site of a demonstration by some 200 protesters last month, have apologized to a black youngster who alleged that he was not allowed to enter the store because of his race.

"I'm glad it's over," said Denise Dortch, whose 11-year-old son, Jason, was barred from the store Dec. 11. His friend, Kenneth Carter, said at the time that he overheard one store employee say that Jason was not allowed in because "he's too dark."

In a settlement mediated by the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission Wednesday, Ms. Dortch said, the store's management apologized to Jason in writing. Without acknowledging any specific incident of racism, the company "apologized for any misunderstanding that may have occurred," said Nancy Schaffer, president of the company that owns Eddie's.

"The whole thing is unfortunate, for everyone," Ms. Schaffer said yesterday.

She said the company agreed to donate books to Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, where Jason attends sixth grade. Ms. Schaffer said the company also may sponsor a youth basketball team.

In a written statement, the commission said it "made no findings in the case because the parties reached a settlement."

Ms. Schaffer said no employees were disciplined, but it was made clear that the company does not condone discrimination.

Store manager Harold Hackerman denied any racial motivation when the incident occurred. He said that Jason was apparently barred from the store because of a policy limiting to eight the number of youngsters allowed in the store at one time.

However, Kenneth had said that when he and Jason tried to enter the store that day, he was allowed in with an adult who was a friend of theirs, but Jason was not. Kenneth also is black, but has a lighter complexion than Jason. Kenneth said he overheard one employee ask another why Jason was not allowed in, and the other employee responded with a racial remark.

Publicity about the incident triggered a protest at the store March 16, organized by the Bethel A.M.E. Church on Druid Hill Avenue, to which the Dortch family belongs.

Ms. Dortch said she had no part in planning the march. She said that the protest and the media attention made it more difficult for Jason to put the incident behind him but that the demonstration seemed to hasten the store's response.

"I'm glad they came forth, and they wanted to handle it," she said. "This is something that's behind us."

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