“Attention, Walmart customers. All Black people, leave the store now.”
These were the words of a 16-year-old boy in Washington Township, New Jersey. On Sunday, March 14, 2010, he grabbed one of the courtesy phones in the store and calmly made his announcement. Once identified as the speaker, he was arrested and eventually released to his parents. He was charged with harassment and intimidation. The case is expected to remain in the juvenile system. Investigation continues into identifying a possible accomplice.
Walmart moved quickly to apologize to everyone in the store. They also updated their intercom system to prevent this from happening again. Some customers were upset and reported hearing of similar incidents in other stores.
If you were the juvenile court judge assigned to this case, what would you say to this boy? What do you think would be an appropriate penalty for what he did? Would community service hours make a difference in his attitude about tolerance and diversity? What could sensitize him to the consequences of offensive speech?