Last Sunday started out as a normal day for Inez Eddington and her family with a trip to church and later a post-worship meal. The 38 year old, her two daughters LaJoy and Emarald, 6-year-old son and 16-year-old niece decided to on Chester's Hamburger Co., but a normal afternoon meal quickly devolved into an altercation between the family and a white couple.
According to Eddington, her youngest daughter LaJoy became visibly shaken and emotional after a run-in with the couple. Eddington says her daughter told her that when she passed by the white couple, the pair responded by hurling racial slurs at LaJoy and her sister. Eddington says she was at the front of the line when the exchange occurred.
"I was at the register, and LaJoy started yelling at me, 'we need to get out of here, they don’t want us in here,'" Eddington said, "I told her 'you need to calm down.'"
An embarrassed Eddington asked the girls to wait at the tables at the back of the restaurant. When she arrived Emarald was running Facebook Live and LaJoy was crying with her head on the table. LaJoy, who Eddington describes as a sensitive people person, was previously a White Middle School student. At that middle school, LaJoy underwent restorative discipline, which helped turn her from a troubled student into a class leader and model student as profiled by the Express-News
In an effort to quash any sort of misunderstanding between LaJoy and the pair, Eddington and Emarald confronted the couple, who immediately started taunting the family. That altercation was live streamed via Facebook and now has more than 312,000 views.
"I knew [Emarald] was videotaping. I’ve never used live, I'm not that technically savvy. I heard her say 'You’re going to go viral,' but I was trying to address and find out what happened," Eddington told us over the phone.
A protest unaffiliated with the family was organized on Monday as a boycott of Chester's Hamburgers Co. after an employee posted these comments: "Boycott Chesters?? Haha. Go for it. According to social media you never see many black folk in there anyway, right?" The self-described employee responded to another commenter by saying, "Best Eva! Lol. And since you're not black, you'll be treated with the utmost respect."
As of now, Chester's Hamburgers Co. has yet to publicly confirm whether that employee is still with the company.
Eddington says she and her family are now trying to move forward. They weren't involved with the planning of the protest. Eddington says spent the majority of the night following the response to the incident, crying and reading comments on Facebook. She says LaJoy remains shaken from the event — she's emotional and constantly makes sure locks are bolted around the house. The mother says she's using the incident as a way to keep an open dialog with her children on racial tension, especially in light of recent events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas.
"We’ve talked about racial issues. The problem we have with the kiddos is that they’re hitting this whole racial issue head on with the interaction on social media," Eddington told us. "It’s harder to explain to them why things are happening. We’ve talked together. They understand that not all people are like that. I stress that to my children ... not all white people are racists or feel that way. The officers [that were called to the scene on Sunday] did a good job of conveying that message."
Though some critics believe Eddington was confrontational in the video, others praised her not resorting to violence.
"I wasn’t 100 percent right, but somebody else would have been physical or they may have used a weapon," she said. "I think people should know you don’t have to get physical, but you can defend yourself. You’re not less than anybody, you’re equal to other people."