Scamming Sympathy

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On September 7, Toni Christina Jenkins was working her shift at a Franklin, Tennessee Red Lobster restaurant and got quite a shock when her customer, 20-year-old Devin Barnes, left her a scrawled note on his receipt: under “Tip”, he wrote “none”. And under “Total”? “Nigger.” Jenkins snapped a photo and posted it to Ye Olde Book of Face…

"This is what I got as a tip last happy to live in the proud southern states..God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee," Jenkins wrote.
“This is what I got as a tip last night…so happy to live in the proud southern states..God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee,” Jenkins wrote.

There’s just one problem…well, actually, no, there are SEVERAL problems. First, Barnes claims he did nothing of the sort and went so far as to have his lawyer hire handwriting experts to analyze the note.

Barnes’ attorney and pastor, Richard Dugger, hired Thomas Vastrick, an independent handwriting expert who has worked as a specialist for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to compare the receipt to writing samples provided by Barnes and his wife.

Vastrick determined that it was “more likely than not” that whoever wrote “none” was not the same person who wrote the racist word.

“There is evidence to indicate that Devin Barnes (K-1) did not write the Total entry on Exhibit Q-1,” he concluded.

A second handwriting analysis was performed, independent of Dugger and Barnes.

“I believe within a reasonable degree of certainty that the waitress actually wrote the word,” said forensic handwriting expert Bob Baier, who examined a sample of writing taken from the waitress’ Facebook account for TheDCNF.

“If you look at the g’s, the e’s, the r’s, they match up,” said Baier. “Those are the most unique writing habits she had.”

Baier did caution that a stronger analysis could be undertaken with a larger sample of Jenkins’ handwriting, as well as original copies.

Secondly, when she posted it, Barnes’ name was unredacted and he’s received death threats.

Barnes’ name was on the guest check.  He told News 2 his life has been turned upside since the picture was posted and he has received death threats from all over the world.

He says he was wrongly labeled a racist by people who don’t know him and who don’t have any proof.

Barnes said, “A lot of people on the Internet who I don’t know are calling me a racist and I’m thinking people have their own opinion but I know I am not a racist. I don’t see color. I have many mixed color friends.”

Barnes says he’s also had to change his bank information and obtain new credit cards.

Barnes told News 2 he’s confused and upset but taking it “day by day.”  “No one should go through this at all,” he added.

And thirdly, Jenkins has now collected over $10,000 from rubes who bought her story.

Because bigotry of any kind is a wretched disease of the mind (not snark, just my honest opinion) it reasonably creates sympathy from a sane observer, and a desire to “beat” the prejudice. Which, don’t get me wrong, is good. It means society as a whole is still filled with good people with a sense of honor and brotherhood. But remember, kids, we live in the Age of PhotoShop.

Take this story, for example:

A New Jersey restaurant server says a customer denied her a tip on a nearly $100 bill because she is gay.

Dayna Morales, a former Marine and a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, posted a photo of the bill showing a line through the space for a tip.

Instead, the customer wrote, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.”

Morales posted a photo of the receipt on Facebook, writing that the mother of two was shocked by her short hair. Morales says when she introduced herself to the family, the woman said: “Oh, I thought you were gonna say your name is Dan. You sure surprised us!”

Morales wrote that she was offended and hurt that “THIS is what her kids will grow up learning and that I served in the Marines to keep ignorant people like them free.”

She told NBC 4 New York Friday it felt like more than a personal attack and believes that’s why the photo of the receipt resonated with so many online.

“Well, clearly these people are complete dicknoses! Let’s go patronize this establishment and make sure this young lady gets rewarded for putting up with this nonsense!”

Morales was so busy fielding the calls and emails of support that she hardly had a chance to wait any tables, even those who came just to see her. But that hasn’t stopped the tips from coming in by the hundreds of dollars — including from people like Jason Papvero, who plunked down a $50 cash tip despite never sitting down or eating at the restaurant.

“I figured, let me stop down and do something nice for her,” said Papvero.

“People are very ignorant,” he said of the anti-gay customers. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Morales said she plans to send a portion of her new tips to the Wounded Warriors Project.

“It’s great to see everybody’s support and I’m thankful for it, but it doesn’t excuse or change the fact that it actually did happen,” she said.

Funny you should say that…

I’m not going to deny that white Americans have a history, as an abstract, of racism. I grew up in Albany, Georgia, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served 3 days of a 45-day sentence in 1961. I don’t need to be schooled on the history of racism in this country. I find it morally repugnant and a distraction from the only two true criteria on which a person should be judged: assets vs. liabilities. But to hold an entire race responsible for the cruelty of its ancestors is just as racist as the attitudes those ancestors held. And it happens every day on every liberal news outlet and from the mouths of people like Oliver Wills and Touré and Russell Simmons.

Durham, North Carolina, 2007: a stripper & escort by the name of Crystal Gail Mangum accused three members of the Duke University lacrosse team of raping her at a team party. And hell was raised, the community was up in arms. 88 faculty members signed a full-page ad condemning the “almost perfect offenders”. Pundits salivated at the opportunity to take these young men, these “exemplars of the upper end of the class hierarchy, the politically dominant race and ethnicity, the dominant gender, the dominant sexuality, and the dominant social group on campus” down a peg. Students held rallies. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It bears noting that no faculty members in the departments of Biological Anthropology & Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Genetics or Psychology & Neuroscience signed on, because if 1950s B-movies have taught us anything, it’s that jumping to conclusions ALWAYS leads someone exclaiming, with great incredulity and disbelief, “…and you call yourself a SCIENTIST???”

Oh, and I should probably mention that prior to the case, she had previously accused 3 men of rape and later recanted. She was also kicked out of the Navy for fraternization that resulted in pregnancy and had a previous arrest for stealing a taxi while drunk, resulting in a police chase, during which she tried to run over a cop and damaged his cruiser. That she received 3 weekends in jail, a $4200 fine and two years of probation for the drunken joyride should have been clue #1 that the justice system in Durham was a little janky. But it DID put her credibility in doubt. That, along with an ATM receipt showing one of the accused was miles away when the supposed “rape” was occurring, plus timestamped photos showing her apparently smiling and partying through the “trauma” of her “assault”.

The young men had all charges dropped, prosecutor Mike Nifong was disbarred for ethics violations, and Ms. Mangum was convicted last week of stabbing her boyfriend to death in 2011.

As a people and as a culture we can no longer afford to allow our sympathies, or the trigger of bigotry, overcome our skepticism of outrageous behavior. And we cannot allow a history of behavior among a certain demographic to paint everyone with those physical attributes in the negative. So next time you see one of these stories that’s custom-engineered to generate outrageous outrage, remember that what’s on the surface isn’t always what’s true.


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