Some Words About Rouses
It does not feel like Carnival. It is Wednesday as I write this. I know that because I have a phone, but over the last few months I’ve had trouble keeping up with the day of the week.
I’m not alone, I know. Working from home and attending to kids who are learning “virtually” tends to bleed one day into the next. We’ve also had other things to worry about. Things like the pandemic and the political situation.
This is not the venue for politics, but I do want to mention something about Rouses.
Donald Rouse, Sr. attended the Jan. 6 rally in Washington D.C. with a former director of human resources for the company. They took a “selfie.” The rally was in support of former president Donald Trump, and the theme was “Stop the Steal.” In this context “steal” refers to the lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
Nobody reading this is unaware of what happened after the rally – after former president Trump said he would march with the attendees to the Capital to stop the certification of the election. It was violent and shameful. No, there were not “good people on both sides” of this – if you were at that rally, the most charitable way to describe you is a fool.
Predictably, people decided to stop shopping at Rouses. I completely understand that, but I have not. I would like to explain why.
I am not entirely aided in this by the interview Mr. Rouse Sr. gave (along with Terrebone Parish NAACP President Jerome Boykin) to WBOK recently. (skip to around 21:45 on the video)
Mr. Boykin went first and spoke eloquently about his experience with Mr. Rouse and how it differed from the man in the “selfie.” He stressed that Mr. Rouse has hired African American managers and has looked to include local African American suppliers in his business.
For his part, Mr. Rouse apologized for his poor judgment and lamented that his mistake was going to affect the primarily African American employees at his stores. He’s a smart guy and he has a charming Cajun lilt to his voice.
He noted that he was wearing a mask, unlike most of the people who attended the rally. He compared the number of African American employees at Rouses to those at Dorignac’s or Robert’s. He said that he realized now he “didn’t have a good enough balance,” as he’d really only listened to WRNO (99.5) before, but now he was listening to WBOK, too.
When asked, he denied he thought the election was stolen and denied he was at the rally in support of Trump. He was there because it was a historic occasion. He went on in a way that makes the adverb “profusely” seem insufficient to describe his apology. He certainly came across in the interview as sincere in his desire to apologize.
I have no reason to believe that Mr. Rouse was not telling the truth about why he was at the rally, and why he appeared in a photograph with a former HR director that bore a caption suggesting the two were with “millions” of “patriots.” It’s hard to reconcile the man in the interview with the man in that photograph.
I have been shopping at Rouses since they opened their first store in New Orleans, and I am the sort of fellow who, until the pandemic, shopped at one of three of the locations three or four times a week. I think their stores have a better selection than any other local or national grocery for most things, and in particular I like they efforts they’ve made to include products from local businesses on their shelves.
I have gotten to know employees at three of their stores, and from what I can tell Rouses treats their employees well. It’s those employees that have kept me shopping at Rouses, at least for the time being. I will not tell you that you should do the same if your conscience dictates otherwise.
We’ll see what Rouses does in the coming weeks and months to reassure customers that they support all members of our community. I hope they do something significant, and that Mr. Rouse Sr.’s idiocy doesn’t mean the end of their stores in New Orleans.
I also hope that you have a pleasant weekend and that you are and remain healthy.