Update: We're not racist, but she's black
Last week, NOW published the story of a woman from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who was beaten up at a retail store in the Dekwaneh area. At first, we did not mention the store’s name because we wanted to highlight the story itself, assuming that if this incident happened once at one store, it has probably happened many times at many other stores; however, other incidents were probably never reported.
After the story went viral, online activists and readers demanded to know the name of the store in order to pressure its management team to take action against the employee who attacked Nafi, not only in order to seek justice, but also in order to prevent the same incident from happening again, especially since the attack was the result of a racist mentality, not of a one-time misunderstanding. Therefore, the store's name, Brands For Less, was later added as an editor’s note.
Brands For Less response
After reading the story, online activists and human rights organizations went crazy. In an attempt to get the Brands For Less management to respond, hundreds of comments were posted on the store’s Facebook page accusing them of being racist and calling on people to boycott the store. Other activists and organizations started planning for a protest in front of the store where the incident took place.
In response, Brands For Less posted several comments to reassure people that any act of racism or discrimination is not accepted according to their policy. At first, the management suspended the employees who were involved in the attack and was waiting for the end of the investigation to take the proper measures against them. Finally, the store posted the following message online:
“Dear Sir or Madam: This is to inform all concerned parties of what we have reached in our investigation.The company’s CEO flew in yesterday evening and conducted the investigation. After reviewing the security cameras and interviewing all the employees and witnesses available we reached the following conclusion. The Deputy Manager ‘s story was inconsistent and left us in doubt about his honesty. Due to this the Deputy Manager and the sales lady were fired officially after being suspended. All evidence will be handed over to the concerned legal authorities.With respect to showing evidence we cannot do more that this statement as we will be hampering the legal process and taking the law into our own hands. Any journalist knows how to verify these facts as part of their professional trade.We would like to assure every one that justice will be served and we will not rest until this matter is settled fairly for the aggrieved party. We are socially responsible and believe in giving back to the society that we came out of.We are against any form of racism, sexism, and religious prejudice. We think that these ailments are at the core of the problems of our country.”
Therefore, Brands For Less took the right decision and justice was served. The employee who attacked Nafi was fired. Not only this, the management is insisting on going on with legal steps.
The ministry of Justice also reacted. During a meeting requested by the Ministry of Justice, Judge Mohammad Saab assured us that the ministry will not let a similar incident pass unnoticed. After he saw the videos that were not posted in order to respect people’s privacy, Saab asked NOW to provide the ministry with any further evidence that we might have in order to help them with the investigation that will lead to legal measures if the suspects are proven guilty.
Other human rights organizations also interfered in order to help Nafi get indemnities. Meetings will be scheduled with both Nafi and her sister in order to help the two ladies file a complaint with the official Lebanese authorities.
“I would like to thank all authorities, activists, bloggers, organizations and media outlets who supported us in the fight of racism and violence,” Nafi told NOW.
Brands For Less took the right action in order to prevent potential racist acts that might occur in the future. Their decision is one step closer to justice.
Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah