When a South Carolina store owner called security and threatened to notify police on a group of black men for talking too loud, putting their negro hands on his merchandise and—most egregiously—paying him no attention, the young men learned a valuable lesson about racial profiling and being black in America. However, it turns out that the group in question was not a roving band of unruly thugs, but an HBCU professor on vacation with his scholar/athlete sons.
Every year in early June, thousands of high school graduates head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for “Senior Week” to celebrate their high school graduations. But instead of simply sending his sons to the resort city unsupervised, college professor Chris Carraway decided that he would take his two sons himself as a reward for completing their high school education and earning college scholarships.
“Myrtle Beach has a reputation and I didn’t feel comfortable with my 18-year-olds going down there without supervision,” Carraway told The Root. “So I took the week off and went down there with them to just hang out.”
Along with his sons, Carraway, who lives in Columbia, S.C., also invited his sons’ friends to join them for the “boys weekend.” The group decided to go shopping at Myrtle Beach Mall and were patronizing Fun Wear Sports when they were approached by the owner of the store, Michael Means, clad in a grease-stained shirt and wearing a haircut that was either a tribute to David Bowie or troll dolls.
And troll he did.
“As soon as we walked in, you could just feel him staring at us,” Carraway said, describing an ancient phenomenon experienced by the Freedom Riders, fugitive slaves and every black person who works at an all-white company.
“It was almost as if he was expecting us to … Well, I won’t speculate why he was staring. But he was staring,” explained Carraway. “Of course, being who we are, black people in South Carolina, that’s not too unusual.”
The graduates continued to shop and talk among themselves as Means watched them closely. After one of the boys made a funny comment that tickled the group, the unamused store owner asked the boys what they were laughing at. Carraway said he quickly stepped in and told the store owner that it was none of his business, at which point which Means reportedly told the group to stay together because he couldn’t “keep an eye” on all of them at one time.
That’s when one of Carraway’s sons pulled out his phone and started recording. The video shows Paul Blart, the Racist Mall Cop yelling to the group, unprompted: “Nobody touch anything unless you wanna buy.”
“I told the boys not to pay the man any attention because he obviously had a problem with our skin,” Carraway recounted. “After this, he threatened to call the cops because the boys were talking to each other. At this point, in my mind, I’m thinking ‘We’re not going to purchase anything from this guy,’ but before I could gather the guys, he called security.”
The video shows the rotund Means, who appears to have swallowed a beachball from his inventory, reporting “six or eight of ’em” to security.
“I told my oldest son that we were going to leave, “ reported Carraway. “[Means] said we were not leaving fast enough and he was going to call the cops. But before the cops even got there, security had arrived.”
Security allegedly told the group that they had to leave the store. Carraway said they stood outside and observed white customers entering the store, many of whom were much louder, but the owner issued no threats or warnings.
“I’m one to call a spade a spade and I’m a very overprotective dad. I always tell them that they have to preserve their family’s name in public But when they went in the store, they weren’t making noise. They weren’t acting belligerent. None of the boys—not that it matters—were walking around with their pants hanging halfway off their behinds … I was wearing sweats because I was on vacation.
“I had to sit in my car for 30 to 45 minutes to calm down because I was so upset that my kids had to encounter such ignorance,” Carraway explained.
When the professor discovered that his son had recorded parts of the interaction, he decided that he would let others know about the incident.
“I said: ‘These kids often misuse social media. I’m going to teach them how to use it and make it meaningful.’ That’s when I posted the videos to Facebook.”
When asked about the incident, Fun Wear Sports owner Michael Means (No relation to Dusty Rhodes) told WPDE that the group was “scaring customers away.” In particular, Means said he “had an issue” with Carraway, because Carraway told the kids to ignore him.
In spite of the negativity, the doting father says that he is somewhat glad that he was there when his sons witnessed this kind of behavior.
“To be honest with you, everything happens for a reason,” Carraway said. “I’m really fortunate that this took place before my son went off to college. He’s very colorblind—as he should be. But at the same time, he’s very naive.
“I try to tell them that there are people out there who will hate you because of the color of your skin,” Carraway continued. “It’s easy for me to tell them that but it’s another thing for them to experience it.”