Community activist Linda Mienzer has vowed to continue the ‘Rick Olson Boycott Campaign’ until Government revisits his contract for the concession at Horseshoe Bay. Now she’s pushing to make the impact of racism in Bermuda a national priority.
Three weeks after his comment and link posted on Facebook sparked community outrage, Olson conceded sales are down by roughly 10 percent, after crowds marched on Front Street chanting “Boycott Rick” on International Workers Day.
The president of Chops Limited runs the concession at Horseshoe Bay, Red Steakhouse and the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach.
He told the daily newspaper that his businesses had suffered “a small negative impact” after his post last month, with a link to a Wikipedia page entitled “Hanged, drawn and quartered”. His caption said: “This might be a deterrent for blocking Parliament?”
He also said that he had given his staff who live from “paycheque to paycheque a temporary pay bump to offset any lost revenue”. While he respects “people’s choice to boycott as they saw fit”, he did not think “it was warranted”. “Politics are politics,” said Mr Olson.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Ms Mienzer said beyond the boycott, that it’s time for the powers that be place racism, and the impact of it, on the national agenda.
“I will continue to call for a boycott of his establishments, and I also think that we as a people have a right to demand that the Government revisit his contract for the concession at Horseshoe Bay.
“Is this the face of the person that we think should be a contract holder with the people’s property? He will continue to profit from the people’s property and he doesn’t care about the people.”
After reading his latest comments, she said: “Quite frankly it saddened me because it seems that he hasn’t learned at all. To say it’s all politics means that he still doesn’t get it. It has nothing to do with politics.
“I’ve always said it’s about racism and having a zero tolerance for it. He continues to disrespect our intellect and tries to change the narrative, and I’m not having it. And it’s unfortunate that he may never get it, but we will not be deterred by this seemingly sympathetic narrative that he’s trying to create; especially around his workers.
“I know the things that he said about this whole thing and if the truth be told I don’t think he is feeling it at all – him personally. But he should be responsible for reimbursing his workers for wages that they lost because of his actions.
“And it concerns me too that his workers are living from ‘paycheque to paycheque’. Maybe he should be concerned himself with the wages he’s paying them, and so it’s unfortunate. Where do we go from here – we keep up with it.”
“I don’t think anybody who makes a blatant racial statement, who clearly hasn’t learned anything from it, should be trying to say it’s all about politics.”
Overall, she said the boycott to date, is going very well because it has initiated more discussions around the emotive subject of racism.
“I’m hearing younger people are finally starting to say they’re not going to go to the Beach. That’s momentous for me! I’ve walked past the Beach on several occasions wearing my shirt and I’ve seen nothing but a couple of tourists sitting out there, so I think it’s having an effect,” Ms Mienzer said.
“Red will always be a challenge because Red is mostly supported by the white community. And I’m now seeing that they make it a point to take live videos, but I see that the dynamics of the colour is changing; so that’s a positive.
“For me, this is not just about Rick Olson. It started as a boycott of his facilities and that will go on. And I think it has to go on because it has to send a powerful message that those days of just making blatant racist statements will come with a price.
“The reason why we had to persist with the boycott is to let others know that we have economic power and now we’re prepared to use it. But it’s beyond Rick Olson, it’s about the systemic racism that continues in this country. It’s about where people stand and what they intend to do to move towards correcting that. And the heightened awareness we could never ever underestimate that.”
Ultimately, she said: “I think it’s important to have a national discussion on racism and where we’ve come since the ‘Big Conversation’. And I think this is certainly doing this because people are talking about racism that I would never have imagined, certainly in the younger generation; and I think that’s important.
“If I was the Government, I would have acted on this and used it as an opportunity – the same with the Progressive Labour Party. They should be coming out and saying we’re the type of party that will make this problem of racism in our country a national priority.
“But I haven’t heard that from them myself, and I think this is why we as a community have to take the bull by the horns. But I’m certainly encouraged, I’m definitely encouraged but it doesn’t stop there,” she said.
“We also need to take this opportunity to remind people that with our economic power we get to choose where to put our funds. And if you’re shopping at businesses that don’t value you, if you’re giving money to people who have clearly shown that they don’t value you, then you need to take your funds away from those businesses.”