Jessie Grady walked into a Michaels store last week to buy a Santa hat for her young daughter.
She ended up witnessing — and filming — another customer’s “unprovoked attack” in which the woman unloaded on black Michaels employees, claiming she was being discriminated against and declaring that she voted for President-elect Donald Trump.
“And I voted for Trump! So there! What, you want to kick me out because of that?” the woman shouts in the video, which has gone viral. “And look who won! And look who won! And look who won!”
According to Grady, the Nov. 23 incident occurred at the arts and crafts store in Chicago after the woman told Grady to go ahead of her at the register. Once Grady was done checking out, she said she heard the woman grow irate. The woman’s “racist rant,” Grady said, included slurs.
“It just sounded like a disgruntled customer for a second,” Grady told The Washington Post. “And then she made a homophobic slur, she started cussing the manager, all sorts of things. It just kind of got out of control. So I waited, but it was like, when she started yelling African American women are discriminating against me, that’s when I pulled out my phone.”
It was not clear from the footage why the woman thought she was being discriminated against.
Grady said the ordeal stretched for about 45 minutes, though the video captures only part of the woman’s rant. The video does not show the initial confrontation, but Grady said the woman was angry about a reusable bag.
When a part-time manager came to assist, the woman “went off” on her, Grady said.
At one point in the video clip, the woman is seen confronting Grady about her camera.
“I don’t know what you think you’re videoing, lady,” she says. “I don’t know what you think you’re videoing. I was just discriminated against by two black women. And you being a white woman, you literally thinking that that’s okay, you standing there with your baby thinking that’s okay? I don’t know what you’re videoing.”
“When she started spinning out of control was when white people didn’t stand up for her,” Grady said by phone. “Because if you see in the video, her total demeanor, even though she’s insulting me, her total demeanor changes when she’s speaking to me, as opposed to the African American employees. She was still looking for an ally in me, even though she is shouting at me.”
Footage of the incident was viewed more than 2 million views on YouTube by Tuesday morning. And an online fundraising campaign set up by Grady to help one of the Michaels employees, a manager, had raised more than $17,000.
The initial crowdfunding goal was $400. “I am overwhelmed by your generosity and it’s given me hope,” Grady wrote on the Gofundme page. “I have been speaking to the manager I’m raising this gift for about what to do with the additional funds. I want this to be her decision to empower her to meet the needs of her family and of her community. It is not my place as a white woman to do that for her.”
Grady said she didn’t film the incident to post it online, but rather because she had previously worked in the retail industry and thought the woman might contact the store and complain at a later date.
“I was thinking, ‘I’ve worked in retail. She’s going to treat them like this, then she’s going to call tomorrow and she’s going to get a discount because the customer’s always right,’ ” she said.
“But this customer’s wrong.”
Other bystanders did stand in support of employees, Grady said, and police did respond. A Chicago police spokesman said in an email that there were no arrests or citations given.
“At Michaels, we do not tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind against our team members or customers, and we are actively investigating the situation,” the arts and crafts supply chain said in a statement. “We regret that our customers and team members were affected by this unfortunate incident and are grateful for the leadership of our store team in working to resolve it without further escalation.”
The incident came not long after a Florida man, David Sanguesa, was caught berating a Starbucks barista in footage that went viral. The man told ABC affiliate WPLG that a barista would not serve him. A colleague he was with suggested it was because of a pro-Trump display on his car.
Sanguesa grew upset because it he viewed it as “anti-white discrimination.”
“The reason that I posted the video is because people need to know that this is real,” Grady said of the Michaels footage. “They need to know that this is happening. And they need to stand up and do something about it, and say that this is not okay. I’m from the South, so I know a lot of people there who were Trump supporters. They’re saying this doesn’t happen, that it’s not real. I thought okay, they know me, and I’m a woman, with a baby. And I need to say this because this is coming from a real person.”