Note: we are republishing this story amid an ongoing nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in America.
Kyle Sales, a teenage employee at a Lowe’s in Washington, revealed that he had been forced to remove his shirt after a customer complained that it was racist.
A supervisor verbally reprimanded Sales, and asked to remove the shirt, which read: “Black Panther Wakanda Forever,” and gave him the ultimatum to either buy a new one or go home and change.
“She goes, ‘A customer said your shirt is offensive and racist,’” Sales said. “This is from a movie. How is this racist?”
He was furious, but decided to cover up the superhero shirt with a sports jersey.
“I was very angry. It just did not seem fair in light of all of the things that are happening in our in the world right now,” Sales said. “This isn’t racist. I shouldn’t be punished for a t-shirt from a movie.”
Sales later heard from a friend that the woman had shown up the next day to ask what punishment Sales had gotten for wearing the shirt.
“She came in throwing a fit saying, ‘What happened to that kid; what was his punishment?’” he said.
Sales had taken up the job at the hardware store a few months ago. He had recently graduated high school and was looking to save money before he begins college at Washington State University.
The incident reminded Sales of the discrimination he faced in high school and at some of his previous jobs. He stated that kids in school called him the N-word, and that a manager at a prior job used to refer to him as “colored boy.”
Sales’ mother, Kimberly, called the incident “pure, unadulterated discrimination,” adding that Lowe’s owes her son “more than an apology.”
When reached for comment, Lowe’s later told a local CBS affiliate that the hardware chain had apologized to Sales.
“Mr. Sales should never have been asked to change his shirt, and we have apologized to him directly. We know this is a teachable moment, and we will take action to coach and train the managers at the store to help prevent this from happening again,” a Lowe’s spokesperson said, adding: “Diversity and inclusion are important to our culture at Lowe’s, and we remain committed to fostering an environment where all individuals are safe, treated fairly, valued and respected.”
Sources: New York Post