A group of teenagers reportedly left an extremely racist message for an IHOP waitress in Sherman, Texas.
Tenasha Ballard, an African-American server, was waiting tables a day before New Year’s Eve when four high school students walked in and placed their orders. They asked the young woman to get them a takeaway coffee. However, when she returned, Ballard saw the teens had already gone — but had left a plate of pancakes cut up into the letters “KKK.”
“At the moment, I’m like, I don’t believe this, I’m seeing this wrong,” Ballard said. “So I went to the tables at the front and said, ‘What do you see on this plate? What letters are these?’ They said KKK, and I said, ‘I thought so.’”
“They just crushed my spirit. I didn’t know what to do after that,” she added.
Ballard took a photo of the hate message and posted the image on Snapchat and Facebook, along with the caption, “Because spelling out KKK with your pancakes is the smart thing to do.”
“I just can’t get over it, because these kids we were just joking, and then it got serious, and I’m like how? How?” Ballard continued. “Like, what was it besides my skin color that made you think this was going to be funny?”
In her Facebook post, which has now been deleted, Ballard alleged the teens were wearing Bells High School letterman jackets. The claim led to people accusing the waitress of trying to slander the small town of Bells, Texas. Ballard responded to the victim-blaming attacks by stating the teens themselves were at fault.
“The kids called out their own town. For them to come out in their school colors and disrespect someone because no one is going to do anything then they knew that they could do that. They felt like they could,” she said.
Ballard also claimed a customer had called another server a “n*****” on the very same night after the waiter asked them if they wanted orange juice.
An IHOP representative said the incident was under investigation.
“Any display of discrimination is against the IHOP brand values and the values that the franchisees of this location upholds (sic),” the company said in its statement.
Bells ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe D. Moore also issued an apologetic statement.
“We regret this action was taken by our students. It is in no way reflective of BISD nor the community of Bells. As I understand, it took place at 2:30 a.m. and it was not a school related event nor were the students under BISD supervision in any way. In addition, it is worth noting BISD students are awarded letterman jackets for participation in numerous organizations, not just athletics. Again, we regret this occurred and wish Ms. Ballard the very best,” he said.
Aside from calling out the racial bigotry, Ballard said her intent in sharing the photo was to address the disrespect of restaurant workers on an everyday basis.
“Respect people,” she said. “It’s one of the things that I was always taught. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Don’t spell it in food. Don’t say it.”
Ballard’s photo has gone viral and she has amassed a lot of support from social media.
TX definitely has the worst among us, but I hope she doesn't give these small, cowardly nobodies any power to take from her spirit. More importantly, I hope her employers & corporate @IHOP implement a policy in which employees feel safe, protected. Customers AREN'T always right.— Esther Lee (@elee1025) January 1, 2018
I’m so sorry that happened to you. Big hug— Kimberly Bozman (@KimberlyBozman) January 2, 2018
This was the “apology” received. Are you kidding me? pic.twitter.com/PEOREHCDo3— Cheye (@cheyemcc) January 2, 2018
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