Call and order a pizza delivery from Domino’s. If you live in certain
neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., Domino’s will deliver a pizza — but
not to your door. You’ll have to go out to the curb to the deliveryman’s
car, pay him and then take your pizza. In response to this practice, Jim
and Wesley Bell — and several of their neighbors — recently filed a
multi-million dollar lawsuit against Domino’s, charging racial
Let’s ask ourselves why Domino’s engages in a business practice
that’s insulting to a significant segment of its clientele. While we’re
at it, we might note that Domino’s is not alone in employing different
business practices when it comes to serving some of their black
customers. In some neighborhoods, Chinese restaurants take and serve
orders through a secure window in a wall; telephone installers operate
in teams and notify police prior to making an installation. Companies
refuse to make deliveries altogether in some neighborhoods.
People with a myopic vision charge that all of this is racism. But
that means racism is worse than ever. During the 1940s, when I lived in
Philadelphia’s Richard Allen housing project, there was no problem
receiving deliveries of anything: furniture, soda, groceries, you name
it. Telephone installers didn’t operate in teams. Life-insurance
salesmen worked their collection rounds picking up payments. That the
insurance man was coming upstairs was a dead giveaway by the sounds of
coins jingling in his pockets.
It’s highly doubtful that racial discrimination can explain Domino’s
delivery practices. High crime rates in black neighborhoods can. Crime
imposes a hefty tax on law-abiding residents of black neighborhoods. The
insult associated with not being able to receive pizza deliveries on the
same terms as people in other neighborhoods is just a small part of that
tax. Residents bear costs of having to shop outside of their
neighborhoods; criminals have driven businesses out. Children can’t play
safely in front of their homes. Fearing robberies, taxi drivers,
including black drivers, often refuse to accept telephone calls for home
pickups and frequently pass by black customers on the street.
Neighborhood property values are lower as a result of crime.
None of this is fair to law-abiding people. If we were creating a
brand new world, Domino’s business practices would not be allowed. But
we’re not creating a new world; we must begin with the world we have in
1999. As such, we can’t just say, “Do something!” without asking what’s
the cost of that something. There’s no argument that there’s a benefit
from mandating that Domino’s deliver pizzas to everybody on equal terms.
But what’s the cost and is the cost worth it?
Another way to put the question is: How many pizza deliveries are
worth how many assaulted, robbed or dead deliverers? If pizza deliveries
to the door are deemed more important than the safety of the deliverer,
there might be a case for mandating deliveries on equal terms.
It’s by no means flattering that black has become synonymous with
crime. Crime not only imposes high costs on blacks, crime sours race
relations. Whites are apprehensive of blacks, and blacks are offended by
being the subjects of that apprehension. That apprehension and offense
are exhibited in many insulting ways such as a black pedestrian waiting
at an intersection and hearing cars doors lock, jewelers keeping their
doors locked and extra surveillance of black shoppers.
Black people must first own up to the fact that we commit most of the
crime in America. Then we, not white people, not policemen and
politicians, have to do something about it. Self-serving race hustlers
who charge that responses to black crime such as Domino’s is racism do
not serve us well.