USA Society First Look

Racism exposed: Rant leads to shuttering of Illinois Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen closed one of its franchise locations in Illinois after the owner used a racial slur against a customer.

A Dairy Queen location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Business Wire | Caption

An Illinois Dairy Queen has closed its doors permanently just days after the owner used a racial slur against a customer, leading her to criticize the restaurant in a now viral Facebook post, Chicago Tribune reports.

Incidents of racism have remained prevalent long after the Civil Rights movement drew to a close, but in recent years social media has provided a new outlet for individuals to shine a light on such behavior, providing a way to document or recount them, and giving victims a chance to garner support. In Deianeira Ford’s case, social media became a platform powerful enough to not only foster a protest against the franchise but also lead to its closure less than a week later.

Ms. Ford took her two young children to a Dairy Queen in Zion, a small city north of Chicago, last week. When she opened her order, she says she found one item was missing and another was wrong, prompting her to return to the window. She first asked for her original order, but when the franchise owner, James Crichton, declined, she asked for a refund.

The situation then escalated, Ford says, with Mr. Crichton using racial slurs against her.

He called me and my children n—–; he said I can go back to where I came from,” Ford told The Washington Post. “He took out his flip phone and he said he would take a picture and put it on Facebook because he wants to show the world what kind of n—— he has to deal with. Then he shut the window and walked away.”

She returned to her car with her children and called police, who responded to the scene. Upon speaking to Crichton, an officer confirmed that he had used the slur, and said Crichton continued to use the word freely to describe black customers, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Still, using racial slurs isn’t a criminal offense and police took no further action against Crichton. Ford took to Facebook, detailing her version of the story along with the franchise’s address and phone number. She also called in a complaint to the chain’s corporate office.

Her post quickly went viral, with other users sharing it several thousand times, The Washington Post reports. It drove some to call the store with complaints, and another to show up in person.

In a statement, Dairy Queen denounced Crichton’s behavior, calling it “inexcusable, reprehensible and unacceptable," Chicago's local ABC affiliate reports.

The recent actions of this franchisee are inexcusable, reprehensible, unacceptable and do not represent the values of the Dairy Queen family, our employees, fans and other independent franchisees around the world. We expect our franchisees and their employees to treat every single person who walks through their doors with the utmost dignity and respect. Nothing less is acceptable," We do not in any way condone his behavior or language.” 

The chain also said Crichton and his employees would undergo a sensitivity training.

I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize for my recent words and actions,” Crichton said in a statement. “I have let my family, friends, employees, our system and this community down with what I have done.”

But as outrage continued, with community members planning a protest at the restaurant Saturday, Dairy Queen took further action, revoking the franchise’s license.

Still, many came at the shuttered location Saturday in an event that became more of a celebration than protest. While she’s grateful for the community support, Ford says the incident isn’t over, as she’s still struggling to explain racism to her 3-year-old daughter, who heard the slur.

“She kind of still brings it up — that’s just how she is. She said, ‘Why did that mean man say that to me?’ ” Ford told the Post. “I [told her] some people are just mean. Some people don’t have good hearts.”