Dr. Gilbert Kalonde (courtesy Montana State University)

BOZEMAN – Walmart has issued an official apology to MSU professor Dr. Gilbert Kalonde for racism he suffered at the chain’s Bozeman location in 2016.

The ACLU of Montana filed a lawsuit on Dr. Kalonde’s behalf after a Walmart employee manually typed “CLEAN TOILETS” as Kalonde’s profession on a fishing license he was renewing in February 2016.

In August of that year, the ACLU filed a Montana Human Rights Bureau complaint, claiming that Walmart discriminated against him on the basis of race.

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Caitlin Borgmann, ACLU of Montana Executive Director, applauded Kalonde for standing up to Walmart.

“Gilbert Kalonde stood up to a giant corporation to show that Montanans who experience discrimination based on race, national origin, or any other protected class have recourse and that such discrimination is absolutely illegal. We commend his courage and character in taking on this fight for justice,” Borgmann said.

Walmart issued an apology, calling it an “unacceptable” incident and promising to “undertake measures to help safeguard against this type of incident in the future.”

Local officials have responded to the apology. Judith Heilman, executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project, said that each individual “has a responsibility to stand behind our community members who are historically disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed.”

“Together, we must all recognize, point out, and condemn the daily racism to which people of color in Montana are subjected,” said Heilman.

Former Bozeman mayor Carson Taylor said in a statement:

“We value a diverse community because connecting people of different backgrounds and cultures broadens our views and enriches our life experience. When anyone experiences racism, our community is degraded and we all feel the loss of civility and kindness that we expect in Bozeman. I am personally honored to stand behind Dr. Kalonde and commend his courage in standing up to racism.”

Read the full text of Walmart’s apology to Dr. Kalonde here.

-David Dyas reporting for MTN

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