By Audrey Keith
Yes, racism happens in liberal Johnson County. On April 6, an employee of Coralville Petco used a racial slur against Chelsey Montgomery and then forced her to leave the store with the assistance of Coralville police officers. Chelsey’s live Facebook video about the incident later went viral.
While Chelsey has received some support from community members, much of the response has been critical, skeptical and downright demeaning. Petco’s internal investigation denies that the employee’s actions were racially motivated. However, Iowa City Showing Up for Racial Justice (IC SURJ) doubts the integrity of Petco’s investigation; they offered no hard evidence and their reputation is on the line. We are also disturbed by the role the Coralville police played in removing Chelsey from the store premises without questioning the situation further. Furthermore, KCRG’s reporting of the incident brought up irrelevant information that only served the purpose of casting doubt on Chelsey’s character and her business practices.
IC SURJ supports Chelsey, recognizing the incredible courage it took for her to share her story. Too often, the white population’s response to people of color talking about racism they experience ranges from disbelief to outright character-smearing. In truth, white people are in no place to question the lived experience of people of color. Instead, it is critically important that we believe people of color when they tell us about the racism they experience in our community and that we use our privilege to challenge and actively dismantle the system of white supremacy that underpins it.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 222.