Racism can't be tolerated.
I have a personal, painful and deplorable experience to share - one that will forever be with me and one that I will always associate with Toyota. It involves blatant racial discrimination, personal humiliation (the likes of which I cannot compare) and an exemplary model for what a business person, or any human being for that matter, should NOT do.
I was recently hired as a University of Wyoming faculty member in the Department of Educational Studies. Two days ago, while my partner was paying me a visit, we decided to take a look at 4X4 vehicles, a Toyota RAV4 was my preference, since my Toyota Yaris was particularly small and inappropriate for the Wyoming winters. I know that you are familiar with Colorado weather and can understand where I am coming from. I had had a decent experience with my Toyota and we figured that we would support local business by purchasing the new vehicle at one of the dealers in town. Ken's Toyota Kars is just up the road from my recently acquired home so we drove up on what was another beautiful Laramie summer day. Little did I know, this would turn into one of the worst days of my life.
In a nutshell, my African American partner and I (Latina) were told to our faces that our business was not wanted there, nor our money. We were escorted to the door and told to please leave. Paul, the finance specialist, there, was the perpetrator.
I learned many new details about the racial discrimination my partner and I encountered through a YELP review which a witness posted (and then later it was filtered out by the business), including the racial slurs ("damn spics" and "border jumpers") that were thrown at us (albeit behind closed doors) and frankly, the illegal business practices which are taking place at this dealership by denying my business on the basis of my racial/ethnic background. I thought Laramie was a town that was trying to get past the stain of the Mathew Shepard incident. Now, I see, firsthand and personally, how much more work needs to be done. Even further, I know that Toyota will not stand by this type of dishonorable conduct. Any discrimination - based on sexual orientation, race, religion, or the like - is unacceptable. And, I, especially as a university professor here, will not stand for this discriminatory treatment. In fact, I will go out of my way, to share this experience with every person, organization, and social media outlet I know.
Perhaps the finance person (Paul) at Ken's Toyota Kars had never encountered an educated pair of people of color - one Latina and the other African American. And, perhaps, in the past, he has gotten away with discriminating others who did not have the financial, social or academic capital to advocate appropriately for themselves. Paul's behavior is despicable, no matter who you are, but on August 8th, Paul initiated a series of steps that must result in his dismissal and in education for Toyota employees. I should mention that not one of the salespeople in the showroom came to our defense. Silence is sometimes worse than words. The inaction of the Toyota employees was equally disdainful. The fact that it took an outside witness to document this, that she felt so compelled to share it - shows you what an impact it had, not only on us, but on a simple passerby.
I, for one, will absolutely use my voice and position to denounce this Toyota dealership and employees - and everything they represent. I write this with tears in my eyes. As an immigrant to this country with degrees from UC Berkeley, Stanford and the University of Texas at Austin and 15 years serving as an educator - I simply cannot believe that, in 2012, this is something I had to endure.
Needless to say, I will never do business with Toyota again and will spread the word widely encouraging others to do the same. After that regretful incident, I headed straight to Fort Collins where I bought a Honda CRV - where every person treated me with the utmost dignity and respect.
Please sign this petition and pass it on if you are outraged at this backward business.
Dr. Aurora Chang
Take responsibility for racist business practices.
Racism can't be tolerated.