(NBC) – A professor at Montana State University says a Walmart clerk racially profiled him, putting his occupation as “toilet cleaner” on his fishing license.
Professor Gilbert Kalonde contacted NBC affiliate KECI on Friday, because he is concerned that what happened to him could also happen to other people. It’s not what he wants to see in Montana.
“And they said ‘did you change your job?’ and I said ‘what do you mean?’ and they said ‘your occupation, it says clean toilets.’ I’m like seriously?” said MSU professor Gilbert Kalonde.
He says while he was at Walmart in late February renewing his fishing license, a worker asked him what his job was. He replied he worked for MSU, without specifying exactly what he did there. The employee printed on the license that he cleaned toilets, a very offensive mistake to Kalonde.
Dr. Kalonde said: “If they wanted to look for something else or to give me any other job specification, why didn’t she pick president of the university? Why didn’t she pick professor? Why didn’t she pick accountant? There’s no job specification that calls for toilet cleaning. At least janitor would have made sense.”
Walmart says it’s aware of the situation. In a phone interview with NBC Montana, a spokesperson admitted there was a mistake.
Erica Jones of Walmart media relations said “respect for the individual is one of our basic beliefs at the company, companywide, and this incident was absolutely unacceptable.”
Dr. Kalonde says he went back to Walmart and had the mistake fixed, but he noticed that all information, including occupation, had to be typed in. Kalonde concludes that “cleaning toilets” had to have been typed in on purpose.
Dr. Kalonde said: “I think she stereotyped me because I’m black. She thought ‘okay, what can he do at Montana State University?’ that’s what came up to my mind straight away is she stereotyped me and gave me a job, the lowest of the lowest that she could think of.”
Kalonde asked the manager for an apology.
“And he told me that all I could give you is my personal apology. That’s what he told me, and he refused
To give me that personal apology because he said he’s not the one who did it,” he said.
The company says it regrets the incident.
Erica Jones said: “we have investigated what happened with this customer, with this purchase, and we have taken steps to ensure this will never happen again, particularly around how forms are filled out and what information goes into specific boxes.”
Jones disputes the lack of an apology. “We have apologized to this customer and again we apologize to the customer for this situation,” she said.
Walmart won’t say any more at this time.
Kalonde says he loves living in Bozeman, but he thinks this experience puts a bad light on Montana.