“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed,” actor Will Smith said in 2016.
Since then, his words have been proved horribly prescient, especially in recent weeks as footage has circulated of the killings of Ahmuad Arbery and George Floyd, which have been attributed to racial profiling.
Recent footage of racist incidents, including two FedEx delivery drivers being racially abused and a white woman calling the police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog, have also sparked fury.
So the latest clip to document egregious racism has been received with weary anger – especially as it takes place in Minneapolis, the same city where George Floyd was killed on Monday.
Posted by a group of young black businessmen to the Instagram feed for their business, Top Figure, the video shows a white man challenging them for entering a gym attached to their shared workplace.
As the recording begins, the white man can be seen taking pictures of the group.
“I’m Tom Austin, I’m a tenant in the building,” the man says. “Are you?”
“We’re all tenants in the building,” replies the person filming.
Austin then demands the office details of the group, which they decline to provide, before announcing he’s calling 911.
He then proceeds to ring the building manager, saying:
“Nicole? This is Tom Austin [...] I don’t know what to do here but there’s a whole bunch of people who don’t appear to be part of the [building]."
“Y’all see this racism here?” one of the young men comments.
At this point the footage stops.
In the caption accompanying the Twitter post, the young men explain that they rent office space in a WeWork in uptown Minneapolis and have done so for the past year and a half.
In order to access the private gym, tenants need individual key cards, which the Top Figure staffers say they all possess.
“As we were working out this man approached and immediately asked us who we were and if 'WE BELONG' in this building,” they wrote.
“We all pay rent here and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us. We are sick and tired of tolerating this type of behavior on a day to day basis and we feel that we had to bring light onto this situation.”
The clip quickly exploded after being posted.
@anisalrh Affluent white people feel their status is lowered when black people are able to occupy the same space as them.
In a phone interview with Business Insider, Tom Austin said he was sorry for “overreacting” but denied being racist, claiming the building manager had previously emailed to say that non-tenants were using the gym.
In a written statement, Austin said:
Yes, I f***ed up. Should have handled it differently. Not my job to have done anything. Building management had been complaining that tenants were allowing their friends to trespass and use a private gym that was authorised only for building tenants.
Said hello to everyone when I walked in. But after working out for 10 minutes, I noticed that one of the tenants seemed to have brought four friends and I complained to them that this isn't right.
One guy was letting his other four friends in and out of the building with his pass card FOB. Four guys didn't have a FOB. When I said something, they got in my face accusing me of racial profiling. I said it wasn't racial profiling and it was all about suspicious activity/behavior. Because they were in my face and didn't have pass cards, I took photos and called the property manager. I only called the building property manager! Never called 911.
I told them I'd have done the same thing if they were white, or even a bunch of girls who were trespassing. What surprises me is that we worked out in gym together for another 45 minutes. I had already apologised to them for making them feel it was a race issue and I listened to all their grievances about 'being black'.
When I left the gym, at the end of the night I said "Have a great night, hope we're good." and did a fist bump with each of them! There is way more to the story. Fake news!
Austin’s statement mirrors that of Amy Cooper’s, the white woman who was filmed calling the NYPD on a black birdwatcher who asked her to put her dog on a leash.
Both insist their actions weren’t racially motivated.
Austin has reportedly now had his office lease terminated in the building where the incident happened.