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Dateline Dec. 19, 2018, KBZK News
by Emma Hamilton
(see video at title hyperlink)
BELGRADE, Mont. – Curry Express is a well-known authentic Indian restaurant in Belgrade.
The owners took to Facebook recently and shared offensive messages that were exchanged between them and one Belgrade man.
Owner Raj Singh posted a video of their lunch buffet and Richard Suttles made the decision to comment on it.
Suttles said he was “going to puke.”
The owners responded, saying to “not be disrespectful and have some manners.”
Suttles commented back, “Your race is a insult [sic] to the Earth. You come here and get a hand out and don’t do manual labor here but make a killing off our tax dollars,” concluding his post with profanity.
Over 100 shares and over 300 comments later, the community in the Gallatin Valley is expressing their disapproval of Suttles’ comment.
The Singhs say they are not only heartbroken by the comment but have also become nervous for their safety.
“It scares us because he might also have other people with him. Like I said, birds of a feather flock together. They might not be outside wearing a tee shirt, ‘Hey, I’m racist’ but the thoughts are there,” Raj Singh said.
This isn’t something the couple has ever experienced directly.
Judith Heilman, founder and executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project, says it may not be immediately apparent, but there is racism in the community.
“People love to think about Bozeman as a very welcoming community, as very down to earth, and people are helping one another — and there is a lot of that. Bozeman is also like any other city, suburb, small-town rural area in Montana and in any other state. Racism does exist. Discrimination is here,” said Heilman.
The Singhs also have concerns for other minorities in the community.
“It’s not just scary for us, it’s just the thought that prevails that might be scary for other ethnic groups and other ethnic communities. This happens to us, it can happen to anyone. There’s Chinese, there’s Japanese, there’s a few African Americans here, there’s very few Indians here, there’s Mexicans here,” said Raj.
One Curry Express customer and Belgrade resident was shocked and angry to see this happening right before her eyes but wasn’t happy with how some responded publicly to Suttles.
“There were a couple people that made some hateful comments back to him, and I just write back saying hey, hate is not the way to answer this,” Amanda Stewart said.
Raj said, “I’m proud to be an American, I’m proud to be in this country, I’m proud to be a citizen.”
We reached out to Richard Suttle and he has not responded.
The Singhs add that they are grateful for the love and support they have received from the community.
Heilman said there is a workshop in January that speaks to what happened to the Singhs. You can find more information on it here.
Dateline - Belgrade, MT, 12/19/2018
by Abby Lynes Chronicle Staff Writer, Bozeman Daily Chronicle
A Belgrade business owned by an Indian family received racist comments on its Facebook page Tuesday.
A man using an account with the name Richard Suttles commented on a promotional video Curry Express posted on its Facebook page Dec. 14, saying he was going to puke.
Raj Singh, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Priyanka Singh, and manages the Facebook page, replied to the comment and asked the man to be respectful. What came next was something the Singhs did not expect.
“Your race is an insult to the earth,” Suttles wrote. “You come here get a handout but make a killing off our tax dollars. So to that. Go [expletive] yourself.”
The Singhs said their initial reaction was shock, then sadness. And then came fear.
“It’s something you wouldn’t expect from a town like Belgrade, a community that is close-knit,” Raj Singh said.
Neither he nor Priyanka had ever met the man before, whose Facebook profile said he lives in Belgrade. Everything in his post was wrong, they said. Raj Singh has lived in the U.S. for 25 years, he said, and he and his wife have worked hard.
“Did this restaurant, this table, just come and fall in my lap?” he said.
The Singhs also said this is the first time they’ve experienced this kind of racism in Belgrade, but that it shows that racism is prevalent everywhere.
“We have to grow, we have to educate, we have to inform others,” Raj Singh said.
The Chronicle could not confirm much about Suttles’ identity, though someone by the name of Richard Suttles did file for a business license in 2013.
When the Chronicle tried calling the number listed for the business on various websites, the person who answered hung up after this reporter explained the nature of the call.
Hundreds of comments have appeared on Suttles’ profile since Tuesday night, calling him a racist and referring to his post on Curry Express’ page. Hundreds also commented on the restaurant’s page to voice their support for the owners and call out Suttles for his actions.
When Raj Singh shared a screenshot of Suttles’ comment on his restaurant’s Facebook page, he said he didn’t expect the post to go viral. He was just sharing his sadness, he said. The post had been shared more than 140 times and had more than 180 comments as of press time Wednesday.
“The response of the community was past expectation,” Priyanka Singh said.
Despite that outpouring of support, the Singhs said they’re both still scared. Raj Singh said the comment heightens his fears for when Priyanka Singh goes out to run an errand, or when his two kids, ages 5 and 7, go to the park with their friends.
“Racial confrontation in the U.S. is not a small thing,” he said. “It’s huge.”
There are a few different things people can do to support the Singhs, said Judith Heilman, Montana Racial Equity Project founder and executive director.
Calling Suttles out on social media is not a productive use of people’s time, she said.
“Instead, communicate with people you might actually have a productive conversation with,” she said.
Another way people can help is by patronizing Curry Express, she said. They can also donate their time, talent and money to organizations working to combat racism and different forms of prejudice. Montana Racial Equity Project also regularly holds workshops to help people learn how to deal with racism.
The name of the class used to be called “Dismantling Hatred,” she said. Now, it’s called “Ending Bias, Bigotry and Racism: Skills and Strategies You Can Use.”
The organization changed the name because racism isn’t always as blatant as Suttles’ comment, Heilman said. It happens every day, and it can be subtle.
“So many people think you have to have hate in your heart to act in this matter,” she said. “So much of it is unconscious.”
Abby Lynes can be reached at email@example.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.