In light of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Montana on behalf of Dr. Gilbert Kalonde, Walmart has officially apologized for the racism Dr. Kalonde endured in its Bozeman store.
In February 2016, Dr. Kalonde, a tenure-track MSU professor and a Black Montana resident, went to Bozeman’s Walmart to renew his fishing license. Soon after, he realized that a Walmart employee had deliberately and manually typed Dr. Kalonde’s profession as “CLEAN TOILETS” on the license. Dr. Kalonde returned to correct the license and ask for a written apology. Walmart refused to apologize. In August 2016, the ACLU of Montana filed a Montana Human Rights Bureau complaint on behalf of Dr. Kalonde, alleging that Walmart discriminated against him on the basis of race.
“Gilbert Kalonde stood up to a giant corporation to show that Montanans who experience discrimination based on race, national origin, or any other protected class have recourse and that such discrimination is absolutely illegal. We commend his courage and character in taking on this fight for justice,” said Caitlin Borgmann, ACLU of Montana Executive Director.
In the apology, Walmart recognized the discrimination as being unacceptable and promised to prevent similar incidences in the future.
“Every member of our community has a responsibility to stand behind our community members who are historically disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed,” said Judith Heilman, Executive Director of the Montana Racial Equity Project. “Together, we must all recognize, point out, and condemn the daily racism to which people of color in Montana are subjected.”
Bozeman’s former mayor, Carson Taylor, described the city as proud to be inclusive to all people. “We value a diverse community because connecting people of different backgrounds and cultures broadens our views and enriches our life experience. When anyone experiences racism, our community is degraded and we all feel the loss of civility and kindness that we expect in Bozeman. I am personally honored to stand behind Dr. Kalonde and commend his courage in standing up to racism.”
The Montana Human Rights Bureau complaint is available as a PDF below.
The ACLU of Montana’s Caitlin Borgmann (Executive Director) and Alex Rate (Legal Director) are available for interviews.