The Cracker Barrel Code Word Scandal You May Not Be Aware Of

If you look at the official Cracker Barrel website, you'll find that the company sells itself as a champion of diversity and inclusion. It claims, "Discrimination, overt or through unconscious bias, has no place at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store."

However, one TikTok scandal suggests that not every Cracker Barrel location fosters that spirit of inclusion. One former employee alleged that the Cracker Barrel location she worked at used code words to profile Black customers. According to the TikTok video in question, some Cracker Barrel employees used a seemingly harmless term to describe Black customers in a derogatory way.

Not every rumor about Cracker Barrel is based in truth — per Politifact, a rumor that the Cracker Barrel logo depicts a whip has been debunked, for instance. But in this case, a number of TikTok commenters claimed they'd witnessed similar discriminatory actions, both at Cracker Barrel and at other restaurant chains.

'Canadian' as a racist code word?

TikTok user @cinamnhoney, a self-identified former Cracker Barrel hostess, posted a video in March exposing the racist coded language that was allegedly used among her fellow employees. The clips opens with a video captioned, "me, a hostess at Cracker Barrel, wondering how every employee knew a table was full of Canadians even though they didn't have a telling accent." It then cuts to a rotating block of text that claims "Canadian" was how her coworkers discreetly profiled Black patrons. 

Commenters on the TikTok claimed they'd seen similar remarks about "Canadians" at other restaurant chains. "I worked in a restaurant for years, this is true unfortunately. Every restaurant I worked at used it, too," one commenter wrote. A 2008 report from the Toronto Star also cited an alleged 2003 email from a Texas district attorney using "Canadian" as a code word for Black jury members.

Cracker Barrel, for its part, issued a statement to Newsweek about the TikTok in question. "We only recently learned about this video and have not had a chance to identify or speak with the relevant individuals," a spokesperson for the restaurant chain told the news outlet. "Obviously, racism has no place at Cracker Barrel, and any actions like the ones described in the video would be against our policies, beliefs, and who we are as a company."

Cracker Barrel's history of discrimination

While it may be tempting to chalk the alleged incident up to the failings of one particular location, Cracker Barrel's history includes other incidents of alleged discriminatory behavior. The restaurant chain has been subject to several discrimination lawsuits. 

In 2006, 51 employees from three separate Illinois franchises were awarded a total of $2 million after winning a suit pertaining to racial and sexual harassment, per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Attorney June Calhoun explained that Black employees "... experienced racially charged language in the workplace." And according to Fox News, in 2015, Cracker Barrel settled another discrimination lawsuit that centered around segregating Black customers to the restaurant's smoking section for $8.7 million.

Aside from the Cracker Barrel incidents, "Canadian" is not the only term that has been used as a racist shorthand. Carl Crawford, a retired Black MLB player, reported during his time playing for the Boston Red Socks that he was called a "Monday" by an off-duty police officer, a word which is also used to discreetly refer to Black people (via The Boston Globe).