Social media has been flooded with the stories of bigoted aggression against black, Muslim, Latino, and gay Americans ever since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
That extends to our fighting men and women, unfortunately. Many restaurant chains offer free meals to active duty military servicemen and veterans on Veteran’s Day, so U.S. Army veteran Ernest Walker of the 25th Infantry Division entered a Chili’s in Cedar Hills, Texas, to enjoy a free burger.
A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt interrupted his meal and began questioning his service, saying that “he was in Germany, and that they did not let Blacks serve over there.”
Then the Trump fan got the manager, who also questioned Walker’s service and saying other customers had complained that Walker was “not a real soldier because [he] had [his] hat on indoors,” and said his service dog, Barack, wasn’t really a service dog, even though he was wearing all his proper tags.
Barack the service dog carries a dialysis machine.
The manager then took his food away, even after Walker showed him his ID and military papers.
Walker told the Dallas Morning News that he was “grossly offended, embarrassed, dehumanized.” Chili’s has apologized to angry protesters on Facebook but as of Sunday had not publicly apologized to Walker. “They’re doing what they should do, but they still haven’t validated me as a soldier. I just need him to say ‘I see your ID, I see your DD214, and I respect you as a soldier, and as a man and as a customer’.”
Walker touched on a painful truth in his interview: “I do believe that the election has changed the hearts and changed the motives of people so much so that he believed in his heart and mind after talking to the Trump supporter that I was stealing food.”
Military service used to be sacred in this country, one of the great equalizers. Incidents like this are occurring with horrifying frequency since Trump got elected. We cannot allow even the most petty of microaggressions to become normalized; this isn’t who we are and this isn’t what our country stands for.
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Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.