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Cracker Barrel Is Under Fire for Racism

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Cracker Barrel, the comfort food-style restaurant chain known for its overwhelming amount of ornamental knick-knacks and vintage signs plastered on the walls, is in some social media trouble today. Some folks on the internet are claiming Cracker Barrel is racist. One Twitter user wrote, “Why y’all saying Cracker Barrel smells racist all loud lol we been knew.” 

What’s the meaning behind Cracker Barrel?

According to Southern Living, “cracker-barrel” was coined in 1916 because of barrels containing soda crackers — a popular item for sale at country stores. Customers at said country stores would hang around the barrels as a kind of ritual (kind of like the trope of employees gossiping near the water cooler). The first Cracker Barrel location opened in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee, and it derived its name from the cracker-barrel community experience back in the day. 

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Source: Instagram

According to Dictionary.com, “cracker-barrel” means “of or suggesting the simple rustic informality and directness thought to be characteristic of life in and around the country store.”

So, the name itself isn’t racist, per se. Although back in 2015, someone named Ryan Koch who lived in Iowa started a petition to change its name because he believed Cracker Barrel to be "racist" toward white folks. Per the Change.org petition, Koch wrote “I say all European Americans start protesting C****er Barrel. It uses an offensive slur and it is deeply offensive and mocks our long and proud heritage.” He later clarified the post was “satire.” Ummmmm, okay.

Has Cracker Barrel ever been racist?

So, while it seems like the name of Cracker Barrel isn’t inherently racist, it sounds like a lot of Black customers have experienced racism at the restaurant locations, which is horrifying.

In 2004, there was a filing and settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit against Cracker Barrel after finding evidence of racist behavior and discrimination in at least 50 locations across the U.S. According to CBS News, 21 people filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the chain. At the time, a spokesperson for Cracker Barrel stated, “Our mission is pleasing people and that means all people. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

However, evidence suggests that Cracker Barrel definitely knew what was happening and wasn’t doing anything about it. Attorney David Sanford stated, “It can’t be the case that Cracker Barrel doesn’t know about it. We have enough evidence right now to suggest that Cracker Barrel, to the very highest level, is responsible.” 

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Source: Instagram

According to CBS News, the lawsuit includes statements from black customers who stated they were forced to wait while white customers were seated right away. One specific person said that she arrived at Cracker Barrel at 9:48 p.m. and was told that she couldn’t be served because the restaurant was about to close. However, she then saw four white men were allowed in. “We had hungry children and he still refused to serve us,” the person said.

“There are perhaps thousands more African-Americans who have been denied service, treated rudely by servers and hosts, and subjected to racial slurs at Cracker Barrel restaurants,” attorney Grant Morris said.

Hopefully the chain learned from their mistakes and have implemented a zero-tolerance policy among their staff. Nobody deserves to go to a restaurant and be discriminated against — period.

If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.

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