The Ouzo Bay restaurant video that’s now gone viral is one of the saddest sights in circulation because it shows there’s more than one way to commit murder.
Around the nation these days, we’re reminded with sickening regularity of black people killed by white police officers. The Ouzo Bay incident, from Harbor East in downtown Baltimore, is different.
What’s killed is the innocence of a young boy.
“Can I eat here?” his mother, Baltimore resident Marcia Grant, asks in the video, which was posted on her social media channels on Monday, June 22, and has since received coverage from news outlets around the world.
A manager at the restaurant replies, “Unfortunately, we do have a dress code.” He gestures to Grant’s 9-year-old son, Dallas. “If you have some non-athletic shorts …”
“But that white kid over there came with his tennis shoes on and his athletic shirt,” Grant responds.
The outfits are essentially the same.
Only the skin color of the two boys is different.
The manager expresses sympathy but will not budge. Grant somehow keeps her composure and civil tone of voice, but will not budge either.
The boy looks on silently.
“I would love for you to come back and eat here,” the manager says. A moment later, he adds, “I understand how you feel.”
“I don’t want you to sympathize with me,” Grant says. “I just want you to tell me why it’s different for my son.”
The difference is stark enough that when the video went into wide circulation this week, two managers at the Ouzo Bay restaurant were “separated from and are no longer with the organization.”
That’s the formal language of the apology from the Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns several Baltimore restaurants, including The Choptank in Fells Point, which came under fire last September for its dress code policy (which they later modified.)
In its apology statement over the Ouzo Bay incident, the Baltimore-based company said, “We stand against all forms of racism and believe Black lives matter. … What took place was not only disturbing, it was also eye-opening, and we are committed to learning from it and implementing real change as a result.”
Among the changes, the company said its new dress code excludes any requirements for children 12 and younger.
It’s nice that the Atlas Restaurant Group, realizing the potential for major damage, leaped immediately into corporate apology-speak.
But it tells us another story that there were managers who instinctively issued a refusal instead of an approval. Where does such an instinct come from? Was it strictly a personal instinct on the part of those managers, or something bred into them from corporate mentality?
In either case, there’s a young boy who will carry that horrible moment with him for the rest of his entire life.
This time, it wasn’t an actual murder based on race. Just a murder of innocence.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, including “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).