OPINION

Rick Sanchez: Lowe's accommodates customer's racist request – but who is at fault here?

HICKSVILLE, NY - OCTOBER 28:  Joseph Klein of Sayville, New York is assisted by Lowe's employee Ormani Rivera after his purchase of a generator as Hurrican Sandy approaches on October 28, 2012 in Hicksville, New York. Sandy, which has already claimed over 50 lives in the Caribbean is predicted to bring heavy winds and floodwaters to the mid-atlantic region.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

HICKSVILLE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Joseph Klein of Sayville, New York is assisted by Lowe's employee Ormani Rivera after his purchase of a generator as Hurrican Sandy approaches on October 28, 2012 in Hicksville, New York. Sandy, which has already claimed over 50 lives in the Caribbean is predicted to bring heavy winds and floodwaters to the mid-atlantic region. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

Finally, a story we can all agree on that takes racism to a whole other level.  A woman in Virginia doesn’t like having “black people” in her house and thereby refuses to have an order from Lowe’s delivered by an African-American driver. 

Marcus Bradley has been working for Lowe's for more than a decade. Last week, while making a routine delivery for Lowe’s Home Improvement in Danville, Va., he received a call from a manager telling him to stop his run and return the shipment.

The Lowe’s manager chose to treat a racist request as if it were something as customary as a change of address. It wasn’t. It is a serious mistake, not one for which the employee should be fired, but certainly new material for the Lowe’s training manual on diversity compliance. 

- Rick Sanchez

Assuming there was something wrong with the order or the merchandise, Bradley asked his dispatcher why the delivery had been called off; that’s when Bradley found out the problem wasn’t the merchandise, it was him.  

The order stayed the same, but a driver with fairer skin pigmentation replaced Bradley.

“I asked him why I couldn’t do it, and he said because you’re black and they don’t want you at the house,” Bradley told ABC affiliate WSET.

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At this point in the story it’s hard to figure out which is worse. The fact that Lowe’s abided by the woman’s wishes and replaced Bradley with a white driver or that the woman – whose name has not been released although she’s appeared on camera – would make such a seemingly racist request.

Actually, it’s an easy choice. I defer to the elderly woman, not because I in any way agree with her. Let’s be clear, hers is a racist request, but I give her a pass. You know why?  It’s because of her age and the fear of her surroundings mostly caused by a clamorous drumbeat of violence associated with black people, which she undoubtedly watches night after night on her local news.  

I would guess the only black people she knows are the ones she sees on her talking box, and it ain’t a pretty picture. 

Grandma, you’re wrong. That man you disrespected, Marcus Bradley, is by all appearances a hard worker and good man who was just trying to take care of his family. But we understand from where you’re fear and prejudice arise. 

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing about the Lowe’s manager who chose to legitimize her request. The request itself should have made that proverbial bell go off in his head saying to him like the Great Gazoo in a Fred Flintstone shoulder, “This isn’t right!” 

Instead, the Lowe’s manager chose to treat a racist request as if it were something as customary as a change of address. It wasn’t. It is a serious mistake, not one for which the employee should be fired, but certainly new material for the Lowe’s training manual on diversity compliance. It’s a chapter we assumed we no longer had to read or write and which again reminds us how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America.

As for Lowe's Home Improvement, they chose to fire the employees who made the mistake and have apologized to Bradley. 

I’ll leave it to others to argue the propriety of that decision. What’s more important is the lesson learned. A lesson we all should heed from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

Rick Sanchez is a contributor for Fox News Latino.

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