A Sonic restaurant has become a hotbed of controversy following an alleged incident of racial discrimination last month. A black teen says he and a group of friends were told by an employee to leave a Dallas location. The teens, who were celebrating high school graduation, had just arrived when the employee allegedly threatened to call the police. Since the incident, a protest held at the restaurant drew huge crowds, prompting a response from the company.
“We were coming from a graduation party celebrating our senior year, so we stopped at Sonic,” says Evan Brown, who was a part of the group of teens. Brown says they had just arrived at the location on May 29 when they were confronted by an employee.
“We were met with a car hop who told us if we didn’t leave or get back in our cars that he would have to call the police on us,” said Brown.
The restaurant’s patio was ostensibly closed due to COVID-19 safety measures. However, Brown’s mother, Shonn, told reporters she returned to the Sonic later that day to see groups of white teens gathered in the same spot, undisturbed.
“So all those kids being black, the use of the words ‘police will be involved’ is like a threat to them,” she said, according to WFAA news. “They were intimidated and they were scared so they didn’t just get in their cars, they left immediately and came home and told their parents. Some of them visibly shaking, some of them really quiet and trying to process how this happened.”
Outraged, Shonn and the other teens’ parents decided to do something about it. So they organized a drive-thru rally, which was held at the Sonic location on Sunday, June 14. Their goal was to bring attention to the incident as a community issue, not just an isolated mishap.
“When our kids had this really negative experience at Sonic, we were concerned about not only showing that this impacted them, but this impacted their community,” Shonn said.
According to WFAA news, thousands turned up to the rally in their cars to support the teens.
“We wanted to come and show our community and our friends that we support them and what happened is wrong,” said Karen Wade, an attendee at the rally.
“These are amazing, young strong leaders in our community and they are the future of our world,” said Shari Krage, another attendee. “At least in this corner of Dallas, Texas that we’re beginning in our community to make a change, and change happens right in our neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, Sonic addressed the controversy in a statement released on Sunday, following the demonstration.
“Sonic unequivocally opposes racism and intolerance of any kind. We celebrate diversity and strive to consistently create an environment that highly values inclusion,” the statement read. It went on to apologize to the teenagers who were involved in the incident and vowed to make changes to how it trains employees.
“We are revisiting our policy to ensure the appropriate level of manager is involved in handling matters with our guests,” the statement continued. “We are also bolstering our training program to include consistent unconscious bias training, with a focus on the African American experience, as we foster a more inclusive environment for our team members and guests.”