A recent Cracker Barrel experience is being used as a teachable moment, which will include legal analysis to help determine if the restaurant's actions were illegal. This site provides free self-help legal information.
I visited Cracker Barrel located at 10915 New Halls Ferry Road, Ferguson, MO 63136, Monday to help celebrate my son's birthday. I ordered meatloaf listed in the "Weekday Lunch Features" section for $5.99. Since my 92-year-old father was unable to attend, I placed a to-go order of the meatloaf for him.
When I received my bill, the meatloaf orders were listed for $6.99 each instead of the $5.99 menu price. I pointed out the mistake to the server who mentioned that the price had changed but that it wasn't reflected on the menu. The server had mentioned earlier that it was his first time working as a server. We left a tip on the table and I decided to get the bill corrected when I checked out.
When I presented the bill to the cashier, I explained that my bill was incorrect. A copy of Cracker Barrel's menu was sitting on a podium in the checkout area and I was able to show her the $5.99 price on the menu. The cashier also explained that some prices had gone up, but that they were not reflected on the menu and she called for the manager.
After waiting for the manager for about 10 or 15 minutes, he also acknowledged that some of the prices on the menu were incorrect and that they were waiting for the company to send updated copies. I asked, how do we fix this? The manager replied that $6.99 was the price. I pointed to the menu setting on the podium and stated this is the price, the $5.99 listed on the menu. The manager stated he had no way to honor the $5.99 menu price.
I mentioned under Missouri's truth in advertising statute, state law requires them to honor the menu price. I further explained that it was a simple matter to place a sticker with the new price over the old price. The manager held firm on the $6.99 price. Rather than escalate the issue, I explained that I no longer wanted the to-go meal, and only paid the $6.99 price plus tax for the meal I consumed. I told the manager to tell Cracker Barrel's corporate office I would be filing a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's office.
I don't regularly patronize Cracker Barrel and the location was chosen by someone else. I've visited Cracker Barrel maybe four or five times, usually to meet with others celebrating a special occasion. Before ever visiting a Cracker Barrel restaurant, I saw news reports about racial bias. That information helped to form my impression of Cracker Barrel. I prefer to spend my money with businesses that appreciate my patronage. In 2004 the U.S. Department of Justice settled a complaint that alleged Cracker Barrel:
allowed white servers to refuse to wait on African-American customers;
segregated customer seating by race;
seated white customers before African-American customers who arrived earlier;
provided inferior service to African-American customers after they were seated; and
treated African-Americans who complained about the quality of Cracker Barrel's food or service less favorably than white customers who lodged similar complaints.
When an offer is made and accepted a contract is created. Once I placed my order, a contract existed between Cracker Barrel and myself. Here's where it can get a little tricky; the menu is not an offer. Menus are considered invitations to make an offer. When I placed my order, I was making an offer to purchase the menu item (accepting their invitation). By taking the order the server is accepting the offer, thereby forming the contract. The consideration is made by my acceptance to pay for the $5.99 menu price in exchange for the food or beverage.
The essential elements of a contract in Missouri are: “(1) competency of the parties to contract; (2) subject matter; (3) legal consideration; (4) mutuality of agreement; and (5) mutuality of obligation.”
Since Cracker Barrel failed to honor the contracted price, they breached the contract and exposed themselves to the possibility for legal action simply because they wouldn't honor their menu price.
Truth in Advertising
The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), Chapter 407 of Missouri Revised Statutes, is the state’s primary truth-in-advertising law.
RSMO 407.010, defines the term advertisement fairly broadly which would include restaurant menus. An advertisement or solicitation that creates a false impression in the mind of a reasonable consumer and that was made with the intent of influencing a purchasing decision is unlawful false advertising in Missouri. The regulations specifically provide that reliance is not an element of deception or misrepresentation. 15 CSR §§ 60-9.020, -9.070.
RSMO 407.020 defines misrepresentation, suppression, or omission of any material fact among other things as an unlawful practice. Under the MMPA, “omission of a material fact is any failure by a person to disclose material facts known to him/her, or upon reasonable inquiry would be known to him/her.” The sever, cashier, and manager all knew about the price change but failed to tell the customer.
RSMO 407.025 provides for damages and allows punitive damages and attorney fees.
To succeed in a false advertising claim under the MMPA, a plaintiff must prove the following four things:
There was a purchase, advertisement, or active solicitation of goods or services
The advertisement in question was primarily targeted for consumer purposes, not for business-to-business purposes
The advertisement or solicitation was, in some manner, unlawfully deceptive
The plaintiff suffered actual financial harm as a result of the false advertising
Truth in Advertising is not the same as Truth-in-Menu also known as “Accuracy-in-Menus” and “Truth-in-Dining” terms used to describe regulations governing restaurant menus. Many locations require that menu descriptions be honest and selling prices and service charges be accurate. Examples of information that should be carefully described include preparation style, ingredients, item size, and health claims.
It's unwise for a business to expect customers to pay for their mistakes. Until Cracker Barrel refused to correct its pricing error, I had an enjoyable experience. The meatloaf was decent and everyone else seemed to enjoy their meal. I relied on the accuracy of the menu. I don't know if I would have placed the same order if the $6.99 price was listed. I was actually considering a couple of more expensive options when I noticed the $5.99 menu. I might have ordered the chicken for $9.99 instead. Regardless, I would have still placed an order for my father. It wasn't that I couldn't afford the extra dollar, it was the total lack of regard and respect shown when they refused to honor their menu price!
Cracker Barrel ruined what would have been a positive experience and turned it into a negative one. If not but for the pricing error, I would have left very satisfied and my father would have been too. When I explained what happened, my father said you made the right decision to leave that other meal. Then I prepared his lunch myself.
Imagine you are at a store to make a purchase and a stranger snatches two dollars out of your hand. What would you do; keep quiet, say something, or do something? When Cracker Barrel wouldn't honor the menu price, I felt as if they were attempting to steal my money.
There are two separate causes of action to file a lawsuit against Cracker Barrel; "breach of contract" and "Missouri Merchandise Practices Act".
The breach of contract damages is only one dollar per meal. However, sometimes it's not about the money as much as the principle of the thing. If this was a deliberate tactic to increase profits, Cracker Barrel would know most people would never consider going to court for such a small amount. How many hundreds or even thousands of customers were overcharged? Everyone has to decide how much principle is worth to them. I've certainly spent more than two dollars in time and effort researching and writing this article which for me was worth it. I'm not planning to file suit.
Since the MMPA includes the possibility of punitive damages, that might prompt someone to file a lawsuit or even a class action. If someone were to file a lawsuit, Cracker Barrel would have to pay an attorney to represent them which could cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on the number of motions and hearings. A judge could decide to teach Cracker Barrel a lesson and award thousands in punitive damages.
The solutions were simple; use labels to show the new price, verbally tell customers about the price changes or make the adjustment when a customer complains. The reality is many customers might not notice or might be too embarrassed to mention the price difference. My research revealed the Ferguson Cracker Barrel's online menu (PDF) included the $6.99 pricing on September 13th. The manager could have simply printed copies for temporary use until the corrected menus arrived.
Cracker Barrel violated the law. Every member of our party thought it was wrong for them not to correct their mistake. Hopefully, Cracker Barrel will learn from this and treat its customers more fairly in future situations.
Open letter to Black Churches, Organizations, and their members
My late uncle, Dick Gregory, frequently declared that "The black woman and the black church are the two most powerful forces in the history of America." Black women are exercising their power, St. Louis' most visible examples are newly elected US Representative Cori Bush and the progressive St. Louis prosecutor Kimberly Gardner. It's way beyond time for the Black Church to assert its power!
I am the author of "Legal Research for Non-Lawyers," and maintain a free self-help legal information site that provides practical resources to help people help themselves. The site and its content are targeted primarily to Black people who can't afford an attorney, however, all visitors are welcome. Lack of legal knowledge and representation are among the black community's greatest obstacles.
I began publishing Court.rchp.com shortly after the 2014 murder of Michael Brown. Although I don't hold the power associated with monetary wealth, I am exercising the individual powers that I do have; time, information, and the ability to publish and reach out to others.
While exercising those powers during a recent research project, a disturbing pattern of institutional racism negatively impacting your members was revealed. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has been accused of not renting luxury cars to African-Americans and instead use tactics to convince them to take lower-level vehicles.
Enterprise is not alone, many of the companies your members patronize practice the same sort of subtle racism. While drafting this letter, a news story aired in the St. Louis area about black women being refused dine-in service at a local Waffle House. However, white customers were allowed to dine in.
When my 92-year-old father saw the Waffle house news story, he stated, "White companies always use black people to clean up their messes", referring to the Black Waffle House Vice President defending the company against racial discrimination claims. I couldn't help but check out Enterprise Holdings Executive Officers and as expected, the only Black Executive was their Diversity Officer.
Earlier this year, we also had an issue with State Farm Insurance company where racial discrimination may have played a part. We believed State Farm was charging us more than similarly situated white drivers and they had planned to unfairly cancel our policies. A formal complaint was filed with the Missouri Department of Insurance and State Farm rescinded the cancelation notice.
A Gallup Poll released last month, asked African Americans whether they had been treated unfairly in the last 30 days.
35% report mistreatment while shopping in a store
About one in five reports unfair treatment in other situations
54% of Black Americans report unfair treatment in at least one situation
Reports of mistreatment higher among Black than Hispanic Americans
Acceptance of subpar treatment invites increasing amounts of racialized mistreatment which ultimately leads to deadly encounters with white citizens and police officers falsely claiming self-defense and being believed.
Two of the largest black church organizations, The National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. and The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) together have over 43,000 congregations with over 12.5 million members in the United States, with millions more in other denominations. Black Americans have an estimated buying power of $1.3 trillion and donate a higher share of their wealth than Whites. If Black America was a country, we would be the 15th largest country by GDP, between #14 Spain and #16 Mexico. Black households on average give away 25 percent more of their income per year than Whites. Black churches take in an estimated $12-13 billion per year, an amount larger than the GDP of 74 nations. Before the pandemic, these two organization's yearly conventions contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to their host cities' local economies. In addition to church donations, nearly two-thirds of Black households donate to community-based organizations and causes, to the tune of $11 billion each year.
The combined membership and financial resources of black church congregations can be a powerful force in the fight against racial discrimination. When people discriminate against us they don't care whether we're Baptist, Catholic, Cogic, AME, Jehovah's Witness, Nation of Islam, or any other denomination, to racist, we're all just black.
Racists have been using a divide and conquer strategy against us for centuries. During slavery, it was field vs house slave, dark vs light-skinned. Divide and conquer is a strategy of maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The strategy includes causing rivalries and divisions to prevent smaller groups from linking up to break up existing power structures. Racist institutions have perfected and modernized their methods. However, in the digital era, we're still using the same strategies employed during the 1960s. During the George Floyd protest, the Federal Government targeted Black Lives Matter leaders for prosecution.
As Malcolm X so aptly declared in his 1964, "Ballot or the Bullet" speech, "though Islam is my religious philosophy, my political, economic, and social philosophy is Black Nationalism"…"if we bring up religion we’ll have differences; we’ll have arguments, and we’ll never be able to get together."
Black Faith Union
The combined leaders of your organizations should consider forming a Black Faith Congress (BFC), similar to how African countries formed the African Union (AU). The BFC could even collaborate with black fraternities, professional, and social justice organizations and request membership to the Diaspora Division of the AU. Representatives from participating black denominations could present ideas to form a national strategy to combat the evil that is racism. The BFC could develop a national racism database to record instances of discrimination to reveal which companies and institutions demonstrate a clear pattern of racist policy. Organized sanctions, whether in the form of a boycott, lawsuit, or some other punitive action could be imposed.
The Black Faith Congress or whatever name is chosen could also help formulate a black economic game plan. The BFC could also create a national online database of black talent and black businesses. How many times does one of your members have the solutions to another member's problems, but they have no medium to connect?
You probably have many members with underutilized IT and website development skills that would be happy to work on such a worthwhile project. They might even be able to develop a Black Church peer-to-peer app similar to Uber, Turo, or Airbnb. The possibilities are endless. If the BFC started a credit union or insurance company, I would certainly join.
Funding for such a project could be simple. If each of your member congregations contributed just $25 per month to fund the BFC, in just one year they would have over $12 million to work with. If every congregation member contributed a single dollar each month, that would be over $150 million per year. Member organizations could hold fundraisers to purchase shares in the BFC. BFC shares should be restricted and only made available to your member congregations. Too many of our most promising and valuable assets, BET, Motown, and Johnson Publications (Ebony & Jet) among others for example are now white-owned and controlled. The BFC over time would then pay dividends back to the member congregations.
Additionally, charitable contributions from corporations should be denied, because donations can be used as control mechanisms. If you're dependant on racist corporations for funding, it might prove difficult to call them out on their racism. "Beware of strangers bearing gifts!"
The Internet has provided an opportunity for global reach. The pandemic has forced many of your member congregations to begin streaming their services. Zoom and other similar technologies have eliminated the need for the BFC to regularly meet in person reducing potential travel expenses. The members of your congregations are among the most talented people on the planet. The black church is synonymous with music, praise dance, and drama. Just about every major black artist has shared in interviews that their talent was developed in the black church. However, the black church doesn't receive any financial benefit from the talent they helped to develop. There should be BFC recording studios and movie production crews. People are shooting movies on iPhones. The BFC wouldn't even have to worry about distributions because many of their member congregations have quality screens and sound systems and could become part-time movie theatres.
Tyler Perry, a well-known member of the Black Church, owns the largest film production studio in the United States. The BFC could partner with Perry to create content. Earlier this year, Tyler Perry asked the Black Church what good are you? The BFC could reach out and show him. The BFC could organize and monetize the church's talent into streaming content. They could start by creating a YouTube channel but work to ultimately create its own streaming service that the Black Church controls. How about a show similar to Shark Tank where black church members pitch business ideas to the BFC to fund. The BFC could get a percentage of ownership in the business. Religious organizations pay no taxes on their investments, whether from interest they earn on their investments or in capital gains.
Keep in mind, the Catholic Church is the Biggest Financial Power on Earth. The Vatican has a large number of shares in the most powerful international banks and corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, General Electric, International Business Machines, etc. They own over 177 million acres of land and that may not include the hundreds of thousands of schools, hospitals, and other special use properties. Catholic churches pay a tax to the Vatican every year.
The BFC if properly executed and managed could bring in billions in additional revenue while also providing valuable service to the community.
In addition to making the private sector accountable, the BFC could create a police misconduct database where members report incidents of racial discrimination and other law enforcement misconduct. Police would no longer be able to hide their miscount reports, at least those made by your members. Those officers could be held accountable and a tool would exist to help identify and eliminate them.
Black church members
My parents were Catholic, my wife's family Pentecostal, my son is an ordained Baptist minister, and I have had close friends that are Muslim or Jewish. They are all kind and loving people who worship the same God, however, they simply have different customs and varied in ideology. Don't allow our difference in faith prevent us from working together to achieve a common good.
An email to some of the largest Black Organizations and Churches will be sent inviting them to freely use these ideas. Share this letter with your church if you believe in this concept. If you're a member of an association of Black Teachers, Black Lawyers, Black Doctors, or a member of a Black Greek, Black Professional, or Black Social Reform organization urge your organization to reach out to form associations with the other organizations. Competition for donations, grants, and other subsidies have divided many Black Organizations. The BFC could function as an affiliate organization similar to United Way serving Black Churches and Organizations.
Some sort of audit mechanism would need to be in place to control corruption. We all know there are those among us who will sell us out for opportunity.
We understand that many congregations and organizations may not be interested. Partnerships can be local, regional, or national. You don't need everyone to participate to achieve success. One hundred years ago "Black Wall Street" was destroyed, lets build another using the Black Church as a foundation. If the pandemic has demonstrated but one lesson, it's "United we stand, divided we fall!"
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." – Mathew 12:25
Christopher Hill, Founder/CEO of ManUpGlobal and co-author of the book, "The Re-Factor," recently endured a car rental experience from hell. He was placed on Enterprise Rent-A-Car's do not rent (DNR) list by mistake.
Enterprise and other car rental companies maintain a (DNR) list which is a list of customers who have been forbidden from renting a vehicle for any reason.
Christopher was preparing for ManUpGlobal's Operation Suave when his car became inoperable because of an accident. Below is an interview Christoper did before the event.
Christopher who happens to be my son needed a car immediately and there was a rental car shortage. He eventually found a vehicle at Avis in West County about 20 miles away for $100/day. Christopher drove the Avis vehicle that weekend and to work Monday.
Christopher is an ordained minister, he is employed by a non-profit organization where he teaches classes to incarcerated men transitioning back into society, however, he has never been incarcerated himself or had any major legal issues.
On Monday, May 24, 2021, I searched for a better rate while he was at work and made a car rental reservation on Enterprise.com. I normally rent from their Dellwood location and reserved a midsize there for $82/day. That reservation was canceled after I discover a midsize rate of $38.75/day at the Ladue location.
When Christopher finished working, We met at Avis and drove to the Ladue Enterprise location.
I listed Christopher as an additional driver, but we were informed he was on the do not rent list. Enterprise Rent-A-Car stated that a car Christopher previously rented had been repossessed, which we both knew was untrue. We waited while the agent tried to reach someone, however, Enterprise's corporate offices were closed. The agent told us she would check into the matter the next day and we ended up renting from another company at twice the cost.
Rental that caused Do Not Rent Blacklisting
Christopher rented a car from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car location, 2233 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis in December 2019, then extended the rental multiple times. On or about January 13, 2020, Christopher returned to the Washington Avenue location to extend his rental and provided his credit/debit card.
The car was returned undamaged on what Christopher thought was the due date, January 29th, his card was charged and he didn't think anything else about the matter. He was never told there was an issue or that he was being added to the DNR list or even that he was in danger of being added to that list.
The vehicle was returned undamaged, the credit/debit card provided was charged and the total fees were paid in full. Since there was no vehicle damage, no outstanding or unpaid fees. It's hard to understand why Christopher was added to the do not rent list.
False Hope for Removal
On May 25th, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car agent called to explained that she confirmed that the vehicle had been repossessed. I knew this information was incorrect. Assuming they mixed up Christopher's rental with someone else; I asked the location of the repossession. I was hoping for some clue which renter's car had been repossessed. The agent checked, called back, and then stated that the car had been returned but that a repo request was made before the vehicle being returned. The agent explained that her boss would call to see about removing Christopher from the do not rent list.
After not hearing from anyone, I phoned back and eventually spoke to a manager who stated Christopher could not be removed from the list. Upon further inquiry, I was provided with information for the Risk Management department.
Before calling Enterprise Risk Management, I phoned the repo company. The owner confirmed that on January 28, 2020, a repo order from Enterprise was received, however, it was canceled less than 24 hours later on January 29th. Enterprise experienced no charges for the canceled repo order according to the owner of the repo company.
Efforts to Resolve
I phoned the manager of Enterprise's Risk Management several times between May 27th and June 9th, but only reached his voicemail. I emailed a detailed message using Enterprise.com's customer service link. I received a response that they needed to hear directly from Christopher, so I forwarded the email.
On June 13th, Christopher contacted Enterprise by email. Explained he wasn't sure how he ended up on the DNR list and because Enterprise's office hours conflicted with his work schedule, he asked his father to look into the DNR list issue. Christoper disclosed he read his father's summary of the incident and the details were correct and to please accept the statement as if it were his own and asked to be promptly removed from the DNR list.
On June 14th, Enterprise apologized for the inconvenience, stated they would engage the management team at Risk Management and that they would contact him soon to provide proper assistance.
On June 25th, Christopher explains he had not heard from anyone. Christopher was approaching the July 3rd deadline for the auto insurance replacement from Hertz. Pandemic supply chain issues caused delays at the auto dealer where Christopher's car was being repaired. The dealer offered to provide him with an Enterprise replacement vehicle beginning on July 3rd. Because the DNR list issue was not resolved, Christopher had to pay to continue the Hertz rental. Hertz continued the rental at the insurance rate (around $26/day including taxes and fees) until August 11th at which time he was charged $975.87.
On August 10th, the dealership reserved a rental from Enterprise since Christopher's car still was not fully repaired. I attempted to reach the manager of Enterprise Risk Management again. The person who answered the phone (TW) explained he was on vacation and would not return until Monday, August 16th.
After explaining the details to TW, she found Christopher's rental record and stated that he had only paid for two days on January 13, 2020, that the car was due back on January 15th, but the vehicle was not returned until January 29th. I disputed that information and wondered if they might have mixed him up with another renter.
She provided me with her email to send some documentation we discussed, however, she stated Christopher would most likely never be removed from the DNR list. She said no one other than the department manager could remove Christopher from the list.
Christopher emailed me copies of his bank statements showing six separate payments to Enterprise Rent-A-Car totaling $1,214.28 concerning the rental resulting in him being blacklisted on Enterprise’s DNR list. (bank statements cutouts shown)
Dec. 19. 2019 $178.75
Jan. 02, 2020 $240.00
Jan. 07, 2020 $170.00
Jan. 13, 2020 $120.00
Jan. 21, 2020 $275.45
Feb. 03, 2020 $230.08
This information among other things was shared with Enterprise on August 11th. I received a response indicating I would be contacted by an area manager and another stating my message has been sent to the Regional Office, and someone would contact me concerning my son's 'do not rent' case. As of the publication of this article, we have not heard from anyone.
The dealership made a reservation in Christopher's name at Enterprise. Since the DNR list issue was not resolved, I had the dealership change the reservation to my name and picked up a vehicle. My wife drove the Enterprise rental and Christopher drove her vehicle. Christopher will not drive the Enterprise rental unless and until he is removed from the DNR list and authorized to drive it.
How the DNR List is Supposed to Work
Supposedly, most drivers don’t have to worry about ending up on a Do Not Rent list. The assumption is that renters are only blacklisted from car rental companies due to avoidable issues like failing to follow the terms of the rental lease, causing unpaid damage to rental cars, or participating in illegal activities. However, Enterprise has been shown to penalize renters for frivolous reasons. One man was added to the DNR list because he shared an address with a former roommate who owed a balance.
There's a Facebook group "Enterprise Rent-A-Car did me wrong", where people share how they have been wronged by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Several people complained about being unfairly added to the Enterprise's DNR list.
What particularly caught my attention is how many people complained that they only discovered they were on Enterprise's DNR list at the rental counter which seems punitive and retaliatory. I can't imagine the stress of arriving in another city standing in line at the rental counter for a long time so you can attend a funeral, job interview, or some other important function, especially if you're running late, only to be blindsided with the news that you're on the DNR list!
Relevant Facts about Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Enterprise is the largest company of the US car rental Oligopoly which controls over 94% of the market:
AvisBudget Group (owns Avis, Budget, and Payless)
Enterprise Holdings (owns Alamo, Enterprise, and National)
Hertz Global Holdings (owns Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty)
Enterprise Holdings and its affiliates own nearly 1.7 million cars and trucks, making them the largest car rental service provider in the world measured by revenue and fleet. The company is privately owned by the Taylor family, #48 on Forbes 2020 America's Richest Families List, with a net worth of $7.8 billion. Enterprise dominants the insurance replacement market. According to Auto Rental News at one point Enterprise controlled over 85% of that market.
Jack Taylor (d. 2016) founded Enterprise in 1957. He named the company after the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier he served on as a Navy pilot during World War II.
Jack Taylor's son, Andrew C. Taylor is Executive Chairman of Enterprise Holdings.
Andrew C. Taylor's daughter Chrissy Taylor is the president and CEO of Enterprise.
The St. Louis-based company reported $22.5 billion in revenues for the fiscal year through July 2020, down 13% due to less travel during the pandemic.
Enterprise has 80,000 employees and operates in nearly 100 countries and territories.
The Taylor Family controls two major charitable foundations; the Enterprise Holdings Foundation with over $323 million in assets and the Crawford Taylor Foundation with over $585 million in assets.
A previous negative experience with Enterprise was used as a teachable moment on this site in 2015.
It seems extremely unfair that a company would ban some of its customers for life, sometimes for minor transgressions, however, if you’re placed on a Do Not Rent list for a legitimate reason, you generally don’t have legal recourse against the company, including any right to appeal. When you land on a DNR list of the parent or subsidiary DNR list you are barred from renting from any of the related companies.
When a person is mistakenly placed on a DNR list, there may be remedies available.
Car rental agreements are contracts. Therefore the first step is to look closely at the contract, which usually includes two separate parts.
“The big print giveth and the little print taketh away”
The contract you are given at the rental counter is often a rental summary (big print) which provides the most important details. There's usually a terms and conditions section (little print) that may be accessible thru an internet link, printed on the rear of the contract in small print or attached.
It's been nearly two years since the December 2019 rental resulting in Christopher being listed on the DNR list and he did not have a copy of that contract. Assuming that my August 11th contract is the same as Christopher's prior contact, our discussion will concentrate on what I consider the most relevant parts of the contract concerning the DNR list issue.
Section 1, provides the following definition: “Rental Period” means the period between the time Renter takes possession of Vehicle until Vehicle is returned or recovered and in either case, checked in by Owner. This is an interesting definition since this could be interpreted differently than the dates appearing on the rental summary. The summary portion of my rental contract listed 8-11-2021 as the pickup date and 8-12-2021 as the anticipated return date. When I asked Enterprised about this, I was told the dealership usually rents the vehicle for a single day and then continues to renew the contract each day until the repairs are complete. Therefore, even though the rental summary so far indicates my car is over a week late, the rental is still valid and I have legal possession. A similar situation might have been the source of Enterprise's confusion concerning the January 2020 due date.
Section 4 – outlines the prohibited uses and what the renter shall not allow or do with the vehicle. None of the prohibitions were violated in Christopher's case, therefore, no further discussion is required.
Section 16 – Limitation of Remedy/No Consequential Damages. This may be unenforceable. Consequential damages, also known as "special damages," refers to damages from an indirect result of an event or incident. The difference between direct and consequential damages is not clear. When a generic exclusion of consequential damages is included in contracts without bothering to define what consequential damages are, it is frequently a fact question whether the damages are direct or consequential. Not long ago a federal court held that a contractual provision excluding “consequential damages” is ambiguous.
A breach of contract action includes the following essential elements:
Inclusion on the DNR list would normally indicate a breach of contract. In Christopher's case, Enterprise suffered no damages.
The car dealership repairing Christopher's car uses Enterprise exclusively. That sort of market dominance certainly has created some situational monopolies. Exclusive contracts with a single car rental company can result in serious hardships if your job requires travel. With this in mind, we wondered if there are any legal remedies under the law when placed on a DNR list by mistake?
Missouri law implies a covenant of good faith and fair dealing in every contract. Slone v. Purina Mills, Inc., 927 S.W.2d 358, 368 (Mo.App. 1996). When Enterprise blacklisted Christopher without a valid reason or warning based upon his contracted rental vehicle, Enterprise violated the covenant and therefore breached the contract. Unlike Enterprise, Christopher has suffered damages. He suffered embarrassment, mental anguish, increased rental charges from May 24th, then July 3rd thru August 11th and August 20th; Christopher was forced to rent another vehicle from Hertz to drive to a speaking engagement about 200 miles away.
Since corporations are considered persons under the law when placed on a DRN list by mistake, would it be considered slanderous or libelous since each is a separate entity? We could find no case law concerning this issue and this question may remain unanswered until tested in court.
Car rental companies are public accommodation providers under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 US § 2000. Privately owned businesses and facilities that offer certain goods or services to the public including food, lodging, gasoline, and entertainment are considered public accommodations for purposes of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Federal law prohibits public accommodations from discriminating based on race, color, religion, or national origin. If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, or with the United States attorney in your area. You may also file suit in the U.S. district court.
With this in mind, does a valid reason need to exist before placing members of a protected class on a car rental do not rent list without a clear and convincing reason? Business owners have the right to refuse service to customers for legitimate reasons. Business owners cannot refuse service to protected classes of people based on arbitrary grounds. Reasons must be legitimate enough to hold up in court, otherwise, a rebuttable presumption of discrimination could exist.
Considering the evidence of systemic racism we uncovered at Enterprise, with limited research, we believe it might be possible to make a prima facie case, especially once we conduct further research. To establish a prima facie case for public accommodation discrimination, the complainant must show that he/she: (1) is a member of a protected class, (2) attempted to exercise the right to full benefits and enjoyment of a place of public accommodation, (3) was denied those benefits and enjoyment, and (4) was treated less favorably than similarly situated persons outside her protected class. McCoy v. Homestead Studio Hotels, 390 F. Supp. 2d 577, 583-85 (S.D. Tex. 2005).
While evidence that a person engaged in bad behavior in the past is generally not admissible in court cases, habit evidence is admissible as an exception to this rule. Habit evidence refers to evidence of a repetitive response by a person to particular circumstances. Corporations are considered persons under the law. It is used in court cases for proving how that person would likely act in a similar situation.
We believe we have a valid claim under both state and federal law. We will allow Enterprise a reasonable amount of time to respond before filing suit if we so choose to pursue that option. We will update this page once additional details become available.
Racism at Enterprise
Enterprise CEO Chrissy Taylor published, “We Must Do More, and We Will”, a pledge to help increase racial equity in response to the murder of George Floyd. If sincere, I applaud Ms. Taylor's pledge.
As a black man, I have endured many slights and inconvenience that makes you wonder in the back of your mind if the treatment, lack of attention or service is because of race. This is because black folks have a proverbial institutional knee on their necks.
I don't pretend to know the hearts and minds of others; however, statements, tone, reaction, facial expression, and body language all provide clues. Although bias is often difficult to quantify, to paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it."
Institutional racism is embedded through laws, regulations, and customs within society or an organization. It's less perceptible because of its "less overt, far more subtle" nature. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes, and behavior that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people. It originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society
Unfortunately, bias and prejudice are innate characteristics—often deeply ingrained and concealed from our own self-examination. The United States Supreme Court recognized this when it said that “[b]ias or prejudice is such an elusive condition of the mind that it is most difficult, if not impossible, to always recognize its existence.” Further, the high court said, bias or prejudice can exist in someone “who was quite positive he had no bias and said that he was perfectly able to decide the question wholly uninfluenced by anything but the evidence.” Crawford v. United States, 212 U.S. 183, 196 (1909).
Our research indicates some Enterprise policies and practices are most likely disproportionately negatively impacting African-Americans and other minorities. Below are some examples.
Miami Beach, FL – 2021
Earlier this year, a man says he was racially profiled at Miami Beach Enterprise Rent-A-Car. After waiting for hours over two days, a white female employee refused to rent him a car and called the police. When the police arrived, it was refreshing to see them take a neutral approach and not automatically believe the false narrative that the black customer was the problem.
Detroit, MI – 2018
Employees of the Enterprise Rent-a-Car at Detroit Metropolitan Airport claim black customers are discriminated against when trying to rent luxury vehicles. White customers were given discounts not available to black customers and code words to distinguish black from white customers were used. The video below provides shocking details.
Baltimore, MD – 2019
Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. of Baltimore was ordered to pay more than $16.3 million in lost earnings, benefits, and interest to 2,336 black job applicants who were passed over for the company's management trainee program.
Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL's) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an administrative law judge found that the company—which is a federal contractor—showed a pattern over 10 years of discriminating against black applicants in favor of white applicants. According to the judge, the company's policy had a disparate impact, which means that a seemingly neutral policy was discriminatory in practice.
Alexandra, VA – 2018
Brendalan Jackson, an Enterprise customer in Alexandra, VA stated the following at complaintsboard.com:
"I have had multiple issues with Enterprise but figured that the representatives were having a bad day. I have called out a few situations at enterprise when I truly knew I've been racially profiled; then only to be patronized by Enterprise employees (Station Manager). I have called the customer service deescalation number for assistance; however, never getting my issue resolved (demeaning me further). My husband completed the registration online for me for a premium SUV (Chevrolet Suburban). I know I was racially profiled again on 11/21/18 in Old town Alexandria, Va. When I arrived at the counter there were two Caucasian females both to assist me. When they looked up my information they both looked at each other while I was standing there, one of the females switched the keys on the counter (as if I was blind and did not see them); I inquired if there was an issue? One of the ladies paused and said that both the Tahoe and Suburban vehicles were identically the same. She then continued to switch out the keys from the Suburban to the Tahoe (which had multiple issues). Now keep in mind that this is Thanksgiving Eve and I needed to get on the road to travel home, I didn't know what she was talking about until my husband informed me that the car wasn't a premium car that I was being charged /paying for and told me that I should've received a Suburban. I am an African American female with over 15 years of experience as a Master of Social Work that supervises a clinical program teaching adolescents on this very issue. I am appalled at the very treatment that I have been given as an Enterprise Plus Member and a paying customer of the Corporation. I am officially putting this on our Core Agency Web site to inform all of our over 5, 000 employees of this Metropolitan area. So that they avoid Enterprise and avoid them being humiliated as I have been on 11/21/18 and again another situation with enterprise at DCA on 11/17/18."
Ms. Jackson's complaint was marked resolved, however, we do not know what the resolution was. However, there were at least 27 discrimination complaints on the site including the one from a federal law enforcement officer below.
Tawana – another Enterprise customer stated the following at complaintsboard.com:
"Before arriving at the Enterprise Car Rental desk I called from home to ask what I needed to rent a car and I was told a credit card. I was asked if my credit card was linked to my checking account and I said yes. I was told to bring two bills (utility bills) from home. I brought four or five to be on the safe side. Once I arrived at the desk I presented all of the information that was required of me. The agent went over to another gentleman in the office and they began to whisper, the agent came back and asked if I had any proof that my bills are not past due. The bills that he had were current and had no past due amounts listed on them, which would have proved that they were not past due and were paid. I was the only African American customer in the office at the time, I was told that I had to pull up my bank account online at one of their desks in order for them to see if I paid my bills. They placed me at a desk to do so. I was extremely insulted by this treatment. I am a Federal Officer (Law Enforcement) and I was treated like a criminal."
On October 24, 2000, eight black individuals filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis), alleging that their employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of St. Louis and its parent company, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, engaged in racially discriminatory practices in promotion and hiring. The plaintiffs claimed that Enterprise was in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000e), The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 U.S.C. § 1981), and portions of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) RSMO 213.
On May 3, 2002, a judge signed a consent decree which required the Enterprise to pay $2.3 million in damages to the two sub-classes and the named plaintiffs and included injunctive relief requiring the company to make changes in the way it advertises and publicizes available jobs as well as how it communicates with those who are turned down for jobs within the company.
As previously mention, I normally rent from the Dellwood location, however, the May 24th reservation was made with the Ladue location because their cars were more than half off Dellwood pricing. I live in the Ferguson/Dellwood area which is predominantly black. Ladue is 94.1% white and only one percent black. I'm not sure why there was such a difference in pricing between Dellwood and Ladue, however, that fact taken along with other factors support an argument for racial discrimination.
At Enterprise, renters without a ticketed return travel itinerary need to provide a credit card with sufficient funds to cover the cost of their rental plus an additional amount between $200 to $400 based on the rental location. Why? What possible difference could the rental location make in determining how much deposit is required. Are Black renters being charged $400 disproportionately?
We also discovered proof of age discrimination at Enterprise.
2019 – Capital One, Enterprise Ensnared in Facebook Ad Bias Scandal – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found “reasonable cause” to believe Enterprise violated federal anti-discrimination law by restricting job postings on the social network to people of certain ages or genders. In both cases below Enterprise refused to promote anyone over the age of 40; click on cities for details.
The Taylor family owned the Keefe Group, a company profiting off public and private prisons and their prisoners. A 2015 Post Dispatch article, revealed the company has contracts with more than 800 public and private prisons. They are one of the larger players in a cottage industry that handles deposits to prisoner accounts, provides inmates with everything from food and condiments to music players and phone service. The following statements were made in the article: “They find so many ways to milk these people for every penny they can”…“You are talking about people who are extremely poor”, said Michael Campbell, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News accused the Keefe Group of price gouging. The day after the first anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting death protestors marched on Enterprise Holdings because of their connection to the Keefe Group.
Months later, the St. Louis Business Journal reported the Taylor family was considering selling the Keefe's Group parent company Centric Group for $900 Million.
Our "Secret Meeting" page discusses the allegations that companies who profited off prisons conspired to target young black men to fill prisons. If your employer requires driving or travel, inclusion on a DNR list could result in job loss. I worked for a transportation company the used Enterprise rentals; if one of our drivers was on the DNR list and unable to drive those trucks, they may have lost their job. Unemployment, financial hardship, and poverty are among the top reasons people commit crimes.
If you are an Enterprise employee and have evidence of discrimination or unfair practices, please contact us.
Alternatives When Black Listed
As we discovered, landing on a DNR list can be a major setback. The first and most obvious alternative is to try another rent from another company not affiliated with the company the place you own their list.
If Enterprise or some other company is your only or lowest cost option, ask a friend or relative to borrow their car and offer to pay for the rental vehicle as a replacement. DO NOT DRIVE THE RENTAL. If the person on the DNR list is allowed to drive the rental, the renter could also end up on the DNR list.
Since three companies control over 94 percent of the car rental market, complain to your US Representative about how they are using their superior bargaining position to create unfair consumer conditions and request new regulations or breaking companies up into separate entities.
Check out Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing, sort of the Airbnb of car rentals. Renters search for available vehicles listed by people who are willing to rent their vehicle often at prices much lower than car rental companies.
Another possible option if you need a rental for vacation is RvShare.com, where you can rent RVs and motor homes directly from local owners. UPDATE: RV Share became an affiliate advertiser after we published, so booking your RV rental thru the link above helps support this site financially.
I did not want to write this article! Christopher and I made several good faith attempts to resolve this issue, but there comes a point where the ridiculousness of a situation just needs to be called out.
Mistakes happen, I understand that, but what’s important is how those mistakes are handled and Enterprise handled this issue very poorly. Research indicates that for every complaint expressed, there are over 25 unregistered complaints. Many dissatisfied customers just quietly take their business elsewhere. When you are the largest company in an Oligopoly that statistic may not be as meaningful.
We have had to expend too much effort trying to resolve an issue that never should have occurred in the first place. This situation has caused financial hardship, embarrassment, major inconvenience, and wasted a great deal of time.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car expended great effort explaining and justifying why Christopher was on the DNR list, but virtually no effort was expended to see if a mistake was made. I was told that it is not possible for Christopher to be removed from the DNR list and if that is true, it is unconscionable that Enterprise does not even consider correcting its mistakes or letting customers make amends.
As things stand now, avoiding Enterprise completely may not be possible. That is assuming they do not blacklist me on the DNR list for publishing this article. Enterprise Rent-A-Car may be the only option when a third party is providing a rental car. Enterprise will no longer be my primary choice for car rentals and I plan on doing a test rental on Turo in the future.
"Dogs have served as instruments of violence in incidents dating back to the days of slavery, and as recently as the Black Lives Matter protests." – Mauled – When Police Dogs are Weapons
Four white Granite City, IL police officers allowed a police dog to maul a law abiding unarmed black teenager while conducting a traffic stop, then they lied about what happened in the official police report.
Devondrea Williams was in the back of a truck his cousin was driving with a friend when police pulled them over around 2:30 a.m. Monday, July 19th. Williams said police never explained why they were pulling them over. According to Williams, police asked for his information and asked him to get out of the truck. Before Williams could comply an officer grabbed his arm and several other officers pushed him against the truck.
Williams explained, “and then I see the dog out of the corner of my eye and then the dog bites me.” The teen said he was bitten by the dog four or five times. When the dog latched onto the teen’s leg and would not let go, officers finally tased the animal in order to get the K-9 to let him go. Williams told KMOV after he was bitten by the animal, “I ain’t never screamed like that a day in my life.”
Regeana Canada, who lives close to where the incident took place, saw police lights and filmed the encounter on her phone. She said the dog was latched onto Williams for eight or nine minutes.
Granite City Police Capt. Gary Brooks provided an account of what transpired to KMOV in a statement, “Officers conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle with some of the individuals involved in the incident. At this time, officers attempted to continue to gather facts to ascertain what exactly had taken place,” the statement said. “During the traffic stop, an individual obstructed the investigation and resisted arrest. They were taken into custody with the assistance of a police K-9. This investigation is still ongoing and as a result, no further information can be given at this time regarding this matter.”
Canada, however, refuted the captain’s claims of resistance. “No, he did not resist arrest at all,” said Canada.
Why wasn't the dog under anyone's controlled and allowed to run free? Regardless, why would it take police officers more than 8 minutes to stop their dog from attacking an innocent person? I can't imagine a situation where a private citizen watches their dog mauling someone for eight minutes and not being arrested. It's way beyond time to abolish qualified immunity for police officers. The officer responsible for that dog needs to be fired and any officers who lied need to be fired and prosecuted!
Under Illinios law, 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(2-10) , filing a false police report falls under the Disorderly Conduct statute. According to 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(4), a person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly transmits to the police department a false report that a crime has been committed knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for it. The penalty for such an offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Under Illinois law pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/31-1, a person who knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee of any authorized act within his official capacity commits a Class A misdemeanor. According to 720 ILCS 5/31-4(a) and (b) a person obstructs justice:
“when, with intent to prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person, he knowingly commits any of the following acts:
Destroys, alters, conceals or disguises physical evidence, plants false evidence, furnishes false information; or
Induces a witness having knowledge material to the subject at issue to leave the State or conceal himself; or
Possessing knowledge material to the subject at issue, he leaves the State or conceals himself.”
Remember the actor Jessie Smollett? On February 20, 2019, Smollett was charged by a grand jury with a class 4 felony for filing a false police report. Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. set Smollett's bail at $100,000 and he had to surrender his passport. On March 8, Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of "false report of offense". After completing 16 hours of community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond, charges against Smollett were dropped on March 28.
At the time of publication, it was unclear whether Granite City police officers have body cameras. Granite City does has a Private Video Surveillance Camera Registration program. The Granite City Police Department signed an agreement with Amazon's home surveillance equipment company, Ring, in 2020 to gain special access to the company's Neighbors app. Someone should check to see if any other private video exist.
When Phylicia Rashad tweeted, “A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”, she was absolutely correct! It's unfortunate she felt pressure to apologize for telling the truth! However, the terrible wrong can never truely be righted because Bill Cosby and his family can never regain his lost time spent in prison!
Because of assurances from Bruce L. Castor Jr. who was then the Montgomery County, Pa. district attorney, Dr. Bill Cosby sat for depositions in a lawsuit filed against him by Andrea Constand, which he paid her $3.38 million to settle in 2006.
The reason Court.rchp.com exist is to help educate black people about the law and to help them help themselves in a court of law by acting as their own attorney when no other option exist. This case illustrates how even a rich black man can become a victim of mass incarceration. Bill Cosby probably would never have served a single day in jail if he was a wealthy white man. For those that might want to compare Dr. Cosby's case to Harvey Weinstein's, the circumstances and weight of evidence were totally different. There was nothing in the Weinstein case to indicate that the charges should not have been filed.
Applying common sense, most likely at some point, Mr. Castor and Ms. Constand had a discussion where he explained there was not enough evidence to get a conviction and that he would be willing to waive prosecution so that her civil suit could move forward and she agreed. If so, Constand knowingly chose money over criminal prosecution. Kevin Steele, a subsequent district attorney reversed Mr. Castor’s decision and charged the entertainer with assaulting Ms. Constand.
If not but for the assurance not to prosecute, Dr. Cosby certainly would have exercised his fifth amendment right to not self incriminate. Cosby never admitted to sexual abuse, he simply admitted that he had at one time given women he wanted to have sex with quaaludes. Read the deposition for yourself, the topic of quaaludes begin on page eight of the pdf file (page 5 of the deposition). Providing the quaaludes would probably have been illegal under the drug laws and therefore incriminating, which was mentioned in the deposition.
Here is a list of miscarriages of justice:
The prosecutor's promise was not honored.
Bill Cosby's deposition should never have been made public.
Bill Cosby should never have been charged.
The judge should have dismissed the case and a trial should never have taken place.
Andrea Constand should not have been allowed to violate her confidentiality agreement.
A second trial certainly shouldn't have taken place
Testimony by women excluded during the first trial should not have been allowed in the second trial.
Bill Cosby should not have been denied bail while his case was on appeal.
Bill Cosby should never have done one day in jail, because he was never legitimately found guilty of any crime.
Bill Cosby should have been released during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Bill Cosby could have died or been killed while in prison before being exonerated.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
The cornerstone of our criminal justice system is presumption of innocense until proven guilty. The state failed to legitimately prove Bill Cosby guilty, therefore he is innocent.
Judge Joe Brown explains why Bill Cosby is innocent:
The Pennsyvana Supreme Court stated the following in their decision concerning the Cosby case, “We hold that, when a prosecutor makes an unconditional promise of non-prosecution, and when the defendant relies upon that guarantee to the detriment of his constitutional right not to testify, the principle of fundamental fairness that undergirds due process of law in our criminal justice system demands that the promise be enforced,”. The Supreme Court's decision restores Bill Cosby's innocent status under the law.
Many of the points I made in a 2015 article concerning Bill Cosby are relevant. I don't know who is telling the truth, however, it's common knowledge that many women submitted to the casting couch to become actresses. It's hard to apply a current standard to the past. Today, the standard is for a woman to stand in her truth, however, a different standard existed years ago. It's not my intention to be insensitive to the accusors, but most of the accusors didn't come forward until after their statute of limitations had expired. The statute of limitations is the legal equivalent of "speak now or forever hold your peace," at least in a court of law. The statute of limitations for sexual offenses in 2015 ranged between 5-20 years, however, 16 states had no statute of limitations for rape. I guess we are to assume Cosby chose not to pursue any women from those 16 states.
I must also be mindful of the proverb, "hell has no furry like a woman's scorn," which may be sexist by today's standard, but still might be relevant. Some people are particulary attracted to celebrity. It's conceivable that some of the accusors willingly participated in exchange for the promise of a a career that never materialized or a continued relationship only to be slighted. Some accusors may have simply jumped on the bus for notoriety, social media fame or monetary gain. People do lie and sometimes there are misunderstandings about what happened; which is why allegations must be proven in court.
Andrea Constand sold her right "speak now" in a court of law for $3.38 million when she signed that confidentiality agreement. That is a proven fact, however, the accusors have proven nothing! Regardless of what the court of public opinion has determined, Dr. Cosby is innocent under the law and by that standard, Phylicia Rashad's statement was true.
This article hits close to home. My oldest son graduated from high school in 2012. His friend, a young lady who had been the number one ranked student in his class since freshman year and who had been named as valedictorian was told on the last day of school that she had been replaced as valedictorian by an Asian student. The reason given was that the other student had taken one more AP class, however, many suspected foul play. The young lady, who was also the daughter of my co-worker was named salutatorian and the situation ruined her graduation experience. Tragically, the young lady died in an auto accident while returning to the school where she was working towards her Master's Degree.
by Jamel K. Donnor, William & Mary
Two Black students – Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple – were named valedictorian and salutatorian at West Point High School in Mississippi in 2021. Shortly afterward, two white parents questioned whether school officials had correctly calculated the top academic honors.
Ultimately, the school superintendent named two white students as “co-valedictorian” and “co-salutatorian” on the day of graduation.
High school seniors with the highest GPA in their graduating class are chosen to be valedictorians and are often responsible for delivering the graduating speech. Salutatorians, who are high school seniors with the second-highest GPA in their graduating class, often give the opening remarks.
The superintendent attributed the mix-up to a new school counselor who was given incorrect information on how to calculate class rankings.
As an educational researcher who focuses on race and inequality, I am aware that the controversy at West Point High School is by no means isolated.
A history of overlooking Black valedictorians
Back in 1991 a federal judge in Covington, Georgia, resolved a dispute a Black high school senior had with a white student over who gets to be valedictorian by making them share the honor.
In 2011, Kymberly Wimberly, a Black student in Little Rock, Arkansas, had her valedictorian honor stripped away by her principal to be given to a white student with a lower GPA. Wimberly’s lowest grade during all four years of high school was a B. In the rest of Wimberly’s courses, honors and Advanced Placement courses, she received A’s.
In her lawsuit, Wimberly claimed that a day after being informed that she was the valedictorian for McGehee High School, the principal told her mother, Molly Bratton, that he “decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian.”
I became familiar with these kinds of valedictorian disputes when I examined the 2017 lawsuit of Jasmine Shepard. A student at Cleveland High School in Mississippi, Shepard had the highest grade-point average in her class.
However, the day before graduation, she was forced to be co-valedictorian with Heather Bouse, a white student with a lower GPA.
In my analysis, I conclude that the decisions to force Black students to share top honors with white students result from a psychological discomfort known as “white fragility.” This is a state of stress experienced by some white people when they are presented with information about people of color that challenges their sense of entitlement.
I maintain that when students of color are named top students in their graduating class, as Shepard was in 2016, white society may begin to fear that students of color are encroaching upon their social turf, so to speak.
A legal perspective
I believe the disputes that arise when Black students are named valedictorian should be viewed in the context of white fragility.
For example, consider what happened when a federal judge ordered the Cleveland, Mississippi, school district to desegregate in 2017 after having failed to do so in 1969 after the Brown v. Board of Education case.
After the 2017 order, The New York Times reported that many whites in Cleveland “feared” that “dismantling the system would prompt whites to do what they have done in so many other Delta cities: decamp en masse for private schools, or move away.” This is known as “white flight.”
In the instance of Jasmine Shepard, too, I contend that white fragility and the fear of white flight were at play.
A key factor contributing to Heather Bouse’s being named co-valedictorian with Shepard was that Bouse had received credit for an unapproved Advanced Placement course in online physics, according to court transcripts that I examined.
The school policy requires that it publicize all of the courses available to students in the district. Unfortunately, the school administrators failed to inform students, parents and school counselors that the online physics course was available.
According to Judge Debra M. Brown, the superintendent and the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum assessment and instruction “incorrectly believed” that the school district was authorized to offer online courses for credit that would count toward students’ graduation requirements. Bouse’s online physics course was “designated as advanced, which resulted in six rank points.”
Based on the credit awarded for this unapproved online physics course, Bouse’s overall GPA was inflated, while Shepard’s GPA was wrongly calculated. This was because her guidance counselor had re-enrolled her in a desktop publishing course in which she had already received an A.
A different student filed a very similar lawsuit to Shepard’s in 2018. In that lawsuit, Olecia James argued that Cleveland School District officials were “reducing the quality points she earned from courses she had taken.” Quality points are another metric of a student’s grades.
Ultimately this prevented her from becoming Cleveland High School’s first Black salutatorian.
Unfortunately, as in the incident involving Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple at West Point High School reveals, when the honorees are African American, there have been instances in which people have questioned the validity of the outcome.
My research suggests that whenever a Black student’s status as valedictorian or salutatorian is questioned, it pays to ask questions. Is it being questioned for a legitimate reason? Or might racism or white fragility be at play?
Every institution in the United States has declared war on black people and as Sun tzu stated over 2,500 hundred years ago; "All warfare is based on deception".
The educational system does not educate people about black history, except for a white washed version of slavery and the peaceful non-threatning aspects of the civil rights movement. King's "I have a dream" speech is front and center, ommitted is his "I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house speech".
Many people today don't realize that even the church participated in deception during slavery by providing a "slave version" of the bible which only contained parts of 14 of the 66 to 73 books of the Protestant or Catholic versions of the bible. Most people until recently had never heard of the Tulsa Massacre. Several entities including law enforcement participated in the destruction of Black Wallstreet and other sucessful black areas. After stealing our boots those same entities asked, why can't black people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
If not but for the Internet, most people would still be oblivious to most issues of race. The most glaring recent example is, Darnella Frazier, the teenage girl who filmed and uploaded a video of the police torture and murder of George Floyd. Racial misinformation is another form of oppression. When you don't understand that racism has negatively impacted every aspect of society, it's impossible to understand how to take corrective measures.
Critial race theory's purpose is to reveal how oppressive laws and history are still causing harmful effects. Those who wish to promote false narratives and half truths demonize the implementation of critical race theory.
by David Miguel Gray, University of Memphis
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana sent a letter to fellow Republicans on June 24, 2021, stating: “As Republicans, we reject the racial essentialism that critical race theory teaches … that our institutions are racist and need to be destroyed from the ground up.”
Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and central figure in the development of critical race theory, said in a recent interview that critical race theory “just says, let’s pay attention to what has happened in this country, and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes. … Critical Race Theory … is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because … we believe in the promises of equality. And we know we can’t get there if we can’t confront and talk honestly about inequality.”
Rep. Banks’ account is demonstrably false and typical of many people publicly declaring their opposition to critical race theory. Crenshaw’s characterization, while true, does not detail its main features. So what is critical race theory and what brought it into existence?
The development of critical race theory by legal scholars such as Derrick Belland Crenshaw was largely a response to the slow legal progress and setbacks faced by African Americans from the end of the Civil War, in 1865, through the end of the civil rights era, in 1968. To understand critical race theory, you need to first understand the history of African American rights in the U.S.
This early progress was subsequently diminished by state laws throughout the American South called “Black Codes,” which limited voting rights, property rights and compensation for work; made it illegal to be unemployed or not have documented proof of employment; and could subject prisoners to work without pay on behalf of the state. These legal rollbacks were worsened by the spread of “Jim Crow” laws throughout the country requiring segregation in almost all aspects of life.
Grassroots struggles for civil rights were constant in post-Civil War America. Some historians even refer to the period from the New Deal Era, which began in 1933, to the present as “The Long Civil Rights Movement.”
The civil rights movement used practices such as civil disobedience, nonviolent protest, grassroots organizing and legal challenges to advance civil rights. The U.S.’s need to improve its image abroad during the Cold War importantly aided these advancements. The movement succeeded in banning explicit legal discrimination and segregation, promoted equal access to work and housing and extended federal protection of voting rights.
However, the movement that produced legal advances had no effect on the increasing racial wealth gap between Blacks and whites, while school and housing segregation persisted.
Through the study of law and U.S. history, it attempts to reveal how racial oppression shaped the legal fabric of the U.S. Critical race theory is traditionally less concerned with how racism manifests itself in interactions with individuals and more concerned with how racism has been, and is, codified into the law.
There are a few beliefs commonly held by most critical race theorists.
First, race is not fundamentally or essentially a matter of biology, but rather a social construct. While physical features and geographic origin play a part in making up what we think of as race, societies will often make up the rest of what we think of as race. For instance, 19th- and early-20th-century scientists and politicians frequently described people of color as intellectually or morally inferior, and used those false descriptions to justify oppression and discrimination.
Second, these racial views have been codified into the nation’s foundational documents and legal system. For evidence of that, look no further than the “Three-Fifths Compromise” in the Constitution, whereby slaves, denied the right to vote, were nonetheless treated as part of the population for increasing congressional representation of slave-holding states.
Third, given the pervasiveness of racism in our legal system and institutions, racism is not aberrant, but a normal part of life.
But what is being banned in education, and what many media outlets and legislators are calling “critical race theory,” is far from it. Here are sections from identical legislation in Oklahoma and Tennessee that propose to ban the teaching of these concepts. As a philosopher of race and racism, I can safely say that critical race theory does not assert the following:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.
What most of these bills go on to do is limit the presentation of educational materials that suggest that Americans do not live in a meritocracy, that foundational elements of U.S. laws are racist, and that racism is a perpetual struggle from which America has not escaped.
Americans are used to viewing their history through a triumphalist lens, where we overcome hardships, defeat our British oppressors and create a country where all are free with equal access to opportunities.
Obviously, not all of that is true.
Critical race theory provides techniques to analyze U.S. history and legal institutions by acknowledging that racial problems do not go away when we leave them unaddressed.
I know that place and year well. As is the case with Fletcher – who is one of the last living survivors of the massacre, which took place when she was 7 – the terror of the Tulsa race riot is something that has been with me for almost as long as I can remember. My grandfather, Robert Fairchild, told the story nearly a quarter-century ago to several newspapers.
Here’s how The Washington Post recounted his story in 1996:
“At 92 years old, Robert Fairchild is losing his hearing, but he can still make out the distant shouts of angry white men firing guns late into the night 75 years ago. His eyes are not what they used to be, but he has no trouble seeing the dense, gray smoke swallowing his neighbors’ houses as he walked home from a graduation rehearsal, a frightened boy of 17.
His has since been a life of middle-class comfort, a good job working for the city, a warm family life. But he has never forgotten his mother’s anguish in 1921 as she fled toward the railroad tracks to escape the mobs and fires tearing through the vibrant Black neighborhood of Greenwood in north Tulsa.”
The Washington Post article said the Tulsa race riots of 1921 were among the “worst race riots in the nation’s history.” It reported: “The death toll during the 12-hour rampage is still in dispute, but estimates have put it as high as 250. More than 1,000 businesses and homes were burned to the ground, scores of Black families were herded into cattle pens at the fairgrounds, and one of the largest and most prosperous Black communities in the United States was turned to ashes.”
Riots began after a white mob attempted to lynch a teenager falsely accused of assaulting a white woman. Black residents came to his defense, some armed. The groups traded shots, and mob violence followed. My family eventually returned to a decimated street. Miraculously their home on Latimer Avenue was spared.
Hearing about these experiences at the family table was troubling enough. Reading a newspaper account of your ancestors’ fleeing for their lives is a surreal pain. There’s recognition of your family’s terror, and relief in knowing your family survived what “60 Minutes” once called “one of the worst race massacres in American history.”
In spite of my grandfather’s witness, this same event didn’t merit inclusion in any of my assigned history texts, either in high school or college. On the occasions I’ve mentioned this history to my colleagues, they’ve been astonished.
In 1996, at the 75th anniversary of the massacre, the city of Tulsa finally acknowledged what had happened. Community leaders from different backgrounds publicly recognized the devastation wrought by the riots. They gathered in a church that had been torched in the riot and since rebuilt. My grandfather told The New York Times then that he was “extremely pleased that Tulsa has taken this occasion seriously.”
“A mistake has been made,” he told the paper, “and this is a way to really look at it, then look toward the future and try to make sure it never happens again.”
That it took so long for the city to acknowledge what took place shows how selective society can be when it comes to which historical events it chooses to remember – and which ones to overlook. The history that society colludes to avoid publicly is necessarily remembered privately.
Even with massive destruction, the area of North Tulsa, known as Greenwood, became known for its economic vitality. On the blocks surrounding the corner of Archer Street and Greenwood Avenue in the 1930s, a thriving business district flourished with retail shops, entertainment venues and high-end services. One of these businesses was the Oklahoma Eagle, a Black-owned newspaper. As a teenager in the early 1940s, my father had his first job delivering the paper.
Without knowing the history, it would be a surprise to the casual observer that years earlier everything in this neighborhood had been razed to the ground. The Black Wall Street Memorial, a black marble monolith, sits outside the Greenwood Cultural Center. The memorial is dedicated to the entrepreneurs and pioneers who made Greenwood Avenue what it was both before and after it was destroyed in the 1921 riot.
Although I grew up on military bases across the world, I would visit Greenwood many times over the years. As I grew into my teenage years in the 1970s, I recognized that the former vibrant community was beginning to decline. Some of this was due to the destructive effects of urban renewal and displacement. As with many other Black communities across the country, parts of Greenwood were razed to make way for highways.
Some of the decline was due to the exit of financial institutions, including banks. This contributed to a decrease in opportunities to build wealth, including savings and investment products, loans for homes and businesses, and funding to help build health clinics and affordable housing.
And at least some was due to the diminished loyalty of residents to Black-owned businesses and institutions. During the civil rights movement, downtown Tulsa businesses began to allow Black people into their doors as customers. As a result, Black residents spent less money in their community.
At the end of my father’s military career in the 1970s, he became a community development banker in Virginia. His work involved bringing together institutions – investors, financial institutions, philanthropists, local governments – to develop innovative development solutions for areas like Greenwood. For me, there are lessons in the experiences of three generations – my grandfather’s, father’s and mine – that influence my scholarly work today.
On the one hand, I study how years after the end of legal segregation Americans remain racially separate in our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces and at alarmingly high levels. My research has shown how segregation depresses economic and social outcomes. In short, segregation creates closed markets that stunt economic activity, especially in the Black community.
On the other hand, I focus on solutions. One avenue of work involves examining the business models of Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, and Minority Depository Institutions, or MDIs. These are financial institutions that are committed to economic development – banks, credit unions, loan funds, equity funds – that operate in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. They offer what was sorely needed in North Tulsa, and many other neighborhoods across the nation – locally attuned financial institutions that understand the unique challenges families and businesses face in minority communities.
Righting historical wrongs
There are interventions we can take, locally and nationally, that recognize centuries of financial and social constraint. Initiatives like the 2020 decision by the Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury to allocate US$10 billion to lenders that focus funds on disadvantaged areas are a start. These types of programs are needed even when there aren’t full-scale economic and social crises are taking place, like the COVID-19 epidemic or protesters in the street. Years of institutional barriers and racial wealth gaps cannot be redressed unless there’s a recognition that capital matters.
The 1921 Tulsa race riot began on May 31, only weeks before the annual celebration of Juneteenth, which is observed on June 19. As communities across the country begin recognizing Juneteenth and leading corporations move to celebrate it, it’s important to remember the story behind Juneteenth – slaves weren’t informed that they were emancipated.
After the celebrations, there’s hard work ahead. From my grandfather’s memory of the riot’s devastation to my own work addressing low-income communities’ economic challenges, I have come to see that change requires harnessing economic, governmental and nonprofit solutions that recognize and speak openly about the significant residential, educational and workplace racial segregation that still exists in the United States today.
Sumner High School has been under repeated threats of closure from the school board and the superintendent, who cite declining enrollment. The most recent such threat arose in December 2020.
Established in 1875, Sumner High is named after a former U.S. senator who vehemently opposed slavery. The school’s alumni represent a who’s who of Black people, including rock stars Tina Turner and Chuck Berry, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory and tennis legend Arthur Ashe.
But other historically Black schools, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary in St. Louis, have not been so lucky. Dunbar Elementary, named after the famous Black poet and writer, will no longer physically enroll students. District leaders said they want to convert Dunbar to a virtual school beginning in August 2021. This led parents, community members and activists to protest the superintendent and school board’s decision, asserting that the physical closing of the school removes a key pillar in the historic Black Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.
Two urban schools that I have researched, both renowned for educating low-income Black students, were also recently shuttered. Gentrification and the emergence of charter schools contributed to an enrollment decline at Whitefoord Elementary in Atlanta, leading it to close its doors in 2017 after serving the community for 93 years. Farragut Elementary in St. Louis – also located in The Ville – closed in May 2021. The rationale once more: declining enrollment.
Black and poor students are disproportionately affected by these closures. For example, Black students comprise 31% of the students in urban public schools but represent 61% of students in those that closed.
Sumner High School stands just 10 miles from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters marched throughout the summer of 2014 to demand justice for the police killing of Michael Brown.
Amid national rallying cries and hashtags that “Black Lives Matter,” I believe greater attention needs to be given to efforts aimed at stopping the closing of Black K-12 public schools. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement demands a stop to the unjust killing of Black people, residents of predominantly Black communities throughout the U.S. are also fighting to stop the killing of their communities through school closures.
Superintendents and school boards often present their cases for closing schools using race-neutral language and statistics about low performance, dwindling enrollments and high operating costs. Rarely factored into the equation are the historical and social circumstances and policies – racism, persistent underfunding of Black education, redlining, disinvestment in Black neighborhoods and desegregation – that gave rise to those statistics.
Moreover, missing from these analyses are the human costs related to closing schools in already struggling neighborhoods. When policymakers remove schools from vulnerable communities, they remove some of the few stabilizing institutions. These buildings often sit vacant for years and become eyesores and objects of vandalism.
I raise these concerns within this time of racial reckoning that purports to value Black institutions. A rush of philanthropic and governmental dollars as a result of protests for Black lives has recently targeted Black businesses, civil rights and social justice organizations, as well as historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
HBCUs have rightfully received additional resources for their work educating generations of Black students. But I believe that to serve Black children, proponents of Black education must extend this support to include Black K-12 public schools. I see three main reasons for this.
First, of the 7.7 million Black children who attend public elementary or high schools today, 3.3 million go to schools that are 50% or more Black. Almost 2 million Black students attend schools that are at least 75% Black. Conversely, roughly 200,000 Black students attended the nation’s HBCUs in 2018.
I find it disingenuous for governmental agencies and philanthropies to provide economic support to Black students at the university level but not at the K-12 level, which comprises the most critical phases of their educational and social development.
Second, the circumstances for Black students who abruptly leave closed schools do not get better. Students from closed schools often experience a decline in math test scores, rarely transfer to better-performing schools and suffer social and academic disruption.
And finally, saving Black K-12 public schools is linked to broader efforts to support Black communities, families and children. In supporting Black schools, policymakers can help re-anchor struggling Black communities. This holistic focus entails supporting families with education and job-training programs, stimulating local Black-owned businesses and supporting neighborhood organizations that serve kids and families.
How can this be done? As with the recent passage of stimulus bills to stabilize the economy and families affected by COVID-19, governmental and philanthropic dollars must complement local dollars to counter funding gaps for schools that predominantly serve Black students and improve the infrastructure of those schools.
Providing financial support to end the massive closing of K-12 Black public schools – which are charged with educating millions of Black students on the racial and economic margins – would make an emphatic statement that Black lives truly matter.
But it also illuminates a previously unknown racial inequality of the policy.
Our research suggests that, by appearing on the driver’s record, license suspensions increase the probability that Black – but not white – drivers incur more traffic tickets. Even after the debt is paid and the license regained, these suspensions continue to harm drivers, and these harms exclusively affect Black drivers.
This shows that suspensions don’t just trap people in a cycle of mounting debt but also a cycle of negative interactions with the criminal justice system.
Long-term impact of suspensions
We studied a sample of over 2,000 drivers who received traffic tickets in Marion County, Indiana, home to Indianapolis, between 2011 and 2016.
In that county, if a driver fails to pay or contest a ticket within 72 days, their license is automatically suspended. This means that judges and other members of the justice system cannot choose who receives a suspension.
Every driver in our sample paid their ticket in the days surrounding the payment deadline.
This is an ideal environment to study the long-term impacts of suspensions because it creates two groups of people that are easily comparable: those who paid the ticket right before the deadline, thus avoiding a suspension, and those who paid after the deadline and received a suspension.
We found that Black drivers who received a failure-to-pay suspension increased their likelihood of getting another ticket by up to nine percentage points. White drivers, meanwhile, saw a roughly three percentage point decrease in their likelihood of getting another ticket.
We attempted to identify differences between white and Black drivers that might explain this result but were unable to do so. For example, Black drivers are not committing more offenses than white drivers, nor are the offenses they commit more serious. Black drivers are just as likely as white drivers to pay their tickets. And Black drivers are more likely than white drivers to reinstate their license after the suspension.
Moreover, regardless of race, following the suspension, drivers with larger fines are less likely to receive another ticket, suggesting that all drivers drive more cautiously after getting a suspension, likely to reduce the probability of receiving another ticket. This is consistent with previous studies on the effects of traffic policies, which show traffic enforcement leads to safer driving.
Ineffective strategies for Black drivers
We believe the most convincing explanation for our findings is that driving “better” to avoid being pulled over is an ineffective strategy for Black drivers, who are more likely to have an encounter with police regardless of how they drive.
This interpretation is consistent with studies showing Black people are more likely to be pulled over without cause. After pulling over a Black driver, the police officer discovers the prior failure-to-pay suspension and becomes more likely to issue a ticket.
This sequence of events does not occur when the driver is white because white drivers are able to minimize the chance of being pulled over by changing their driving behavior.
Our research is the first to study failure-to-pay suspensions in the United States, and it’s the first to demonstrate that they exert disproportionate harm on Black drivers.
This evidence could prove relevant to policymakers in states across the county who are currently debating discontinuing license suspension for nonpayment of legal debts.
Dr. Joanna Carroll co-authored this research while she was at Indiana University. She currently works at the Government Accountability Office.