"What did he say?" Ed Lino asked his 7-year-old daughter, Destiny, as they walked out of the Wal-Mart.He's says it's racism. If I saw that and I saw no reason for alarm the worst that would happen is that I'd be staring, but I wouldn't assume that we're looking at a criminal issue here.
"That man wants to know if you are my daddy," the little girl told her father.
Maybe it would have been a legitimate question had the girl been screaming bloody murder, or there was an Amber Alert that fit Lino and his daughter's description. After all, children have been abducted from department stores.
But Lino -- who is white -- thinks someone looked at him, looked at the dark-skinned girl, and assumed the worst. He's tired of this kind of drama, but it hasn't stopped him from taking care of his daughter on a daily basis since last June, or from taking her shopping and to the park to skate.
Still, some people look at the father and daughter like he could be be a sexual predator -- which is what Lino thinks happened earlier this month when he went shopping at the Wal-Mart at 167th and Torrence.
"We went into the store; we walked around looking for school supplies she needed; we stood in line; we paid. There was no problem. There was no reason for a security guard to ask her if I'm her daddy," he said.
So Lino walked back into Wal-Mart and approached the uniformed security guard.
"He was an older black gentleman, and he asked me: 'Is this your child?' I said: 'Yes, this is my daughter,' and I showed him my key chain with her picture on it."
Lino said he and his daughter walked back out of the store and went to his car. Just as he opened the door, another black man whom he assumed was a Wal-Mart employee approached him and asked the same question, explaining that a "question concerning the child had come up."Wal-Mart had a spokesman comment on this issue.
"I told him the same thing. I even showed him the key chain and a medical card with her name on it," Lino said. "When I started to get back in the car, the man said I had to show some identification."
"I told him I'm not going to give you anything," Lino said. "This was blatant racism. The child was not crying when he walked up, and there was no sign of any struggle. There was no problem until he walked up, and then she started crying: 'This is my daddy. Leave him alone,' " the father said.
At this point, the white father put his dark-skinned daughter into the car and drove off.
Twenty minutes later, a Lynwood police officer was pounding on the door of Lino's south suburban home.
"They had gotten a call that I had taken a child from the Wal-Mart," Lino said.
"I told them, 'I took a child all right. She is right here. Here is her grandmother,' " Lino said, pointing to an older black woman. "The police officer apologized and started laughing."
But Lino didn't see anything funny.
He called Wal-Mart and complained to a manager.
"I wanted to know what was this all about and why did I have to go through this harassment. My daughter wasn't crying in the store. She wasn't being pulled by me or anything like that."
Mia Masten, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman for the Chicago region, told a slightly different version of the same story, carefully pointing out that the security guard involved was employed by a third party. She also denied that the man in the "white shirt and tie" was associated with Wal-Mart.Mr. Lino was said to not be satisfied, and said...
"One of our security guards was approached by a customer who was concerned about the safety of the child," Masten said, but she did not identify the customer or say why the customer thought there was a safety issue.
"We don't know. But the customer approached the guard, who was acting in response to the customer's concern," she said. "The guard accompanied the customer outside the store, where the customer approached Mr. Lino and his daughter. To our knowledge, no Wal-Mart associate was involved," Masten said.
"The store manager promised me that she would check with the security guard and look at the tape to find out what reason he had to question us. It's been over a week, and I haven't heard from them. My daughter doesn't want to go back to a Wal-Mart because she thinks I'm going to be arrested," he said. "It was outrageous."Now to explain he isn't the child biological father and he's listed as the father in the birth announcement. According to this column he's estranged from Destiny's mother and that she was only born during their marriage. In fact Diane Maxwell refers to Mr. Lino as a father figure to her daughter.
So anyway that's the deal here. I hope that you give this column a read and then maybe you will have an opinion.