Savannah is a picturesque town with a deep history that dates back to 1733. Like much of the American South, it still retains an antebellum mindset when it comes to diversity. Some parts of the Low Country — and a lot of the South — also have that backward mentality, which these days applies to the most liberal of cities. And yet, wherever you may live, outright racism still hurts whether it’s in your face or not.
Last Saturday, a video of a man lashing out at a young Latina woman at a McDonald’s in Savannah, Georgia caught the attention of many online as the man told her to “speak English.”
On Sept. 21, a 19-year-old who Cristina Riofrio was talking to her friend in Spanish when the white man insulted her for it. He told her that while he had been from the area his entire life, she just came here on a “f*cking boat.” He also yelled at her to “shut the f*ck up.”
In america, i can speak FUCKING spanish if i want to pic.twitter.com/a6F93RftAR
— Cristina Riofrio (@cristinariofri3) September 22, 2019
“You’re racist,” she told him in a video that has since gone viral on Twitter.
“I know I am,” he replied. “You shouldn’t be proud to be racist,” she told the man.
A McDonald’s employee told the white man to leave, but he still wanted to make sure he got his meal order.
The white man in question is Walter Browning, who was fired for his racist remarks from the Chatham County office jail where he worked as a maintenance mechanic. “[We] have no tolerance for this type of behavior and will not allow any person to knowingly be mistreated,” Chatham County Sheriff John T. Wilcher said in a press release according to NBC News.
“At first I was really surprised and shocked, but then I realized these people, there’s a lot of people in this country and sadly us people that are foreigners that speak other languages, not only Latinas, others, have to sadly face this,” Riofrio said to NBC News.
As a Latina who also lives in Savannah, I completely understand where Riofrio is coming from. While the demographics in Savannah is about 55 percent black and 38 percent white, “the other” (Latinx, Asians, Native Americans) is extremely low.
Like myself and Riofrio, a majority of the non-white residents of Savannah are students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). It is because of that university that Savannah proudly boasts a diverse demographic. So, if people like Browning can’t stand hearing Spanish, he better get used to more Latinas in his face telling him he’s a racist jerk.