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Friday, September 21, 2007

Check your cell phone bills folks, you might find a racist message mixed in with your monthly charges

Pay very close attention to the quote in bold.
THIS is what happens when you don't control your image AND don't care about your image.

Plainfield man finds offensive phrase, unexplained charge after purchasing cell phone.

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- A city man was outraged Thursday to find what he considered a racial epithet, along with an unexplained charge, on the receipt for a cell phone he had purchased at a downtown wireless store.

Nykii Southerland, 27, went to the U.S. 1 Wireless store, 102 W. Front St., to purchase a mobile phone. When he got in his car and glanced at the receipt, he said he was shocked to find the phrase "good morning MY NIGGAS @ U.S. 1 HOLLA BAK" next to an otherwise unspecified charge of $25.

"I noticed it like two minutes after I got into my car," he said. "I felt disrespected; I was very offended."

Upset, Southerland, who is black, went home and showed the receipt to his mother, Cheryl.

"I called the store, and they said everyone uses the word all the time," Cheryl Southerland said. "I said, 'My son wants a refund.' "

When the store refused a refund, Cheryl Southerland called a lawyer, whom she said advised her to call police. Police then accompanied the Southerlands back to the store, and the money was refunded.

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Vinny Vemarco of U.S. 1 Wireless, who sold the phone to Nykii Southerland, said the N-word phrase was directed at other store employees as a way to brag about making a sale.

"It wasn't a statement towards anybody. It was a statement towards U.S. 1 Wireless," he said. "Something was wrong with the network. Normally, they (employee messages) don't show on the receipt. We talk to each other just like that."

As for the unidentified $25 charge on the receipt, Vemarco said the phone incorrectly rang up on the receipt for $125 instead of $150 -- another network error.

Vemarco said he isn't worried about the ramifications of his actions because he believes the Southerlands are overreacting.

Vemarco said the version of the N-word on the receipt is commonly used in his native Brooklyn, N.Y., and that the word no longer has a racist meaning.

"Did something happen to them that they had flashbacks or something?" Vemarco said. "I thought this happened in the fifties, and it was squashed. You go to MTV; they use it all the time."

Vemarco, who identified himself as "half black," said the word doesn't offend him.

But it does offend Nykii Southerland.

"Yes. That word still offends black folks today," Nykii Southerland said. "Even though it came from back then, it still offends African-Americans to this day. I'm offended only because it came from a consumer store and from the employees thinking it's OK."

Nykii Southerland acknowledged that, in some contexts, the term "nigga" is considered less derogatory than its original version, but he doesn't like it.

"It depends on the people, but it's not up to them to say it's OK for me to say that to another African-American," Nykii Southerland said. "I still would not use that word."

Vemarco said the store owner was out of town until Monday. Vemarco said he usually works at a store in Brooklyn but was called to help out Thursday in the Plainfield store.
U.S. 1 Wireless is a T-Mobile dealer. When reached for comment, a representative from T-Mobile USA said they would not comment on the matter because the T-Mobile did not own the store in question.

The Southerlands said they plan to pursue the case through the police department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office.

Mr. Starks

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