The City of Spencer fired an employee Thursday after investigating an altercation that occurred Wednesday evening at Walmart. The city employee hurled racist comments at another shopper and several times sent the scooter she was in toward the shopper and toward the cart holding the shopper’s 3-year-old daughter.
The incident was shared in a Facebook post by LaTasha Jackson, the target of the verbal attacks. The city issued a statement late Thursday afternoon on Facebook saying the employee identified in the complaint had been terminated effective immediately. The city stated earlier on Facebook that it had received a complaint regarding the incident and was investigating.
In an interview Thursday, Jackson said she and her kids were shopping at Walmart with one of her best friends. They were shopping with the friend, Jackson said, because the friend is pregnant and due very soon.
They chose a checkout lane when another woman, a city employee, pulled up behind them in line in a scooter.
“We were in the 10 items or less checkout, but we shared a cart, so we only had maybe 20 items in there between the two of us,” Jackson said. “She started yelling at me, ‘Can’t I fucking read?’ And she was singling me out, specifically. I was like, ‘Yeah, I can read just fine,’ and she was like, ‘Well, if you could read, then you could see it says ‘10 items or less.’ I told her, well, there’s two adults and between the two adults we have the right amount of items.’”
That’s when the woman, whom Jackson said she did not know, began asking racist questions.
“Then she was asking, ‘Where the fuck are you from and how long have you fucking been here?’” said Jackson, who is Black. “I’m like, ‘I was born here,’ and she was like, ‘Well, you’re a fucking liar, that’s bullshit.’”
Jackson told the woman that she was the first biracial baby born in Spencer.
“She continued to yell at me and was like, ‘I fucking doubt that because we make sure we run people like you out of town,’” Jackson said.
The Signal has not been able to independently verify the name of the woman. The Signal left a voicemail message with the person believed to be the woman involved, but has not received a return phone call.
The Signal also left a voicemail message requesting comment from the City of Spencer that has not been returned as of late Thursday afternoon.
Woman allegedly sent scooter toward toddler in cart
While Jackson and the woman were in the middle of the heated conversation, Jackson’s 3-year-old daughter knocked an item off the candy shelf in the checkout line.
“I was going to go pick it up and she moved her cart forward like she was going to hit me with it,” Jackson said. “So, I backed up and didn’t pick it up. She moved a little forward again and she was like, ‘I’ll pick up after your nasty children.’”
Jackson said the woman then tried to “ram her motor scooter into the cart where my daughter’s legs were dangling.”
“That obviously set me off and I started yelling at her and stuff like that,” Jackson said. “I told her that you’re the reason why we have so much hate.”
At some point, Jackson told the woman she was going to take her picture, which she did and later posted on Facebook.
“I let her know that I was going to take her picture,” Jackson said. “I’m like, ‘I’m taking your picture. I’m gonna put you on line and I’m going to let everyone in the area know that you’re a racist. And she’s like, “OK, you fucking do it.’”
That’s when the woman gave the ‘OK’ sign with her hand.
The ‘OK’ hand sign has been picked up by some racist groups as a symbol meaning “white power.” That meaning being attached to the gesture began as a satirical joke in 2017 by members of 4chan, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Some people began using the symbol, knowing its satirical origins, for trolling purposes. However, the symbol was picked up by white supremacists, some of whom eventually began showing the sign without any joking intent.
The Anti-Defamation league says on its website that the ‘OK’ sign is still used widely as a symbol for “understanding, consent or approval” and warns that caution is needed when evaluating a person’s intent when displaying the signal.
Jackson said she’s not sure if the woman displayed the OK sign knowing what it represented.
“I know a lot of people today, like, they automatically just say OK like that because it used to be cool when they were younger,” Jackson said. “I don’t actually know if she knows exactly what that means and maybe she does.”
Customer, Walmart employees try to stop woman’s attacks
Meanwhile, another customer had entered the same checkout line behind the woman in the scooter. Jackson said that customer was trying to tell the woman she needed to stop and that what she was saying was wrong.
“She turned around and tried to justify what she was saying to me wasn’t wrong,” Jackson said. “The lady at the register called her manager over there and then the Walmart employees came over and the lady continued running her mouth. So the one lady stood in between us while we started checking out and that still didn’t stop her. Everyone was telling her to stop saying what she was saying and she just kept proceeding.”
Walmart employees took Jackson off to the side as the woman in the scooter was checking out. They apologized for what happened, Jackson said.
“They kept apologizing for her and I kept trying to tell them it’s not your fault that she’s a nasty human being,” Jackson said.
The Walmart employees asked her if there was anything they could do, saying that they “don’t tolerate anybody being talked to like that,” in the store.
“They did what they could and then we left,” Jackson said.
As the woman got into her car, Jackson and those with her stood outside in front of the store out of the way. She said she wasn’t sure what the woman might try to do.
“She was in her car and I was going to have to walk past her car,” Jackson said.
City fires employee after investigating incident
The City of Spencer had been investigating the incident since Thursday morning, according to a post on its Facebook page. That post was updated late Thursday afternoon to announce the employee identified in the complaint had been fired.
“The City is reviewing and investigating a complaint received regarding a city employee and an altercation at Wal-Mart yesterday,” the original post stated. “We wish to convey to the public that we take this allegation seriously and are working internally to resolve this matter. The City vehemently does not condone the use of racial slurs and racism, and we continue to strive to be a community that is welcoming to all.”
Jackson said she had received a call from a representative of the city asking when they could speak with her personally about the incident.
Jackson said that she did feel the woman was aggressive when operating her scooter, especially when it went toward the cart where her daughter was seated. Jackson did not call the police or file a report.
“Because she didn’t actually physically touch my child, they probably weren’t going to do anything about it,” Jackson said.
Not Jackson’s first experience of racism in Spencer
Jackson said she’s experienced racism before in Spencer.
“Like I said, I was born here,” Jackson said. “So I’ve had plenty of experiences in town.”
The most recent incident before Wednesday evening’s happened the night before the March for Justice for George Floyd protest in Spencer on June 4. Jackson said she and her children participated in that march.
She said that she was at the Casey’s on 18th Street the night before the protest.
“I went in to get something to drink,” Jackson said. “When I was walking out, a car pulled up and said, ‘Look, the nigger’s are showing up.’ That one, I just got in my car and sat there until I calmed down.”
There have been other racist incidents, too.
She recalled when she worked as a waitress in town and had people make remarks to her. Her boss would have to kick people out for what they would say to her, she said.
Jackson said she’s dealt with racism since she was young, but that it’s different now.
“People are not afraid to say racist things anymore, either,” Jackson said.
The responses on the receiving end of racism are different now, too, including Jackson’s.
“I think people are starting to stand up for themselves,” Jackson said. “I used to stand silently if stuff happened to me, stuff like that. I would just cry about it or go get mad and punch something later and then just never bring it up because nobody really cared if you said anything about it. I would just always stay silent, but now I’m at the point where I’m like, Why do I have to be the one to be silent when I’m not doing anything wrong?”
In the incident Wednesday, Jackson said she wasn’t going to remain silent, especially after the woman lurched her scooter toward her daughter in the shopping cart.
“I’m a mother before I’m anything,” she said.
Featured image: This photo shows the woman accused of aggressively asking racist questions of LaTasha Jackson and allegedly sending her scooter toward Jackson and the shopping cart in which Jackson’s 3-year-old daughter was sitting at the Spencer Walmart on Wednesday, July 1.