Arthur Hill of Fort Mill, South Carolina was just looking for a quick shave when he walked into a neighborhood barbershop, but found himself in a crazy situation when he was refused service by the shop's 65-year-old owner Larry Thomas.
But Hill wasn't simply turned away from the establishment: Thomas made racist remarks and even threatened Hill with his gun.
"I asked him does he shave, 'Can I have shave...'" Hill said. "He said, 'I don't do Black hair." Hill responded, "I said, 'Are you referring to African American hair?' He said, 'Yeah,' and at the time I noticed he already had his hand gripped on a .38 snub nose chrome revolver."
Hill said he told Thomas he didn't want any trouble and left, but immediately contacted the York County Sherriff’s Office. "I was shocked, I was shocked for my life, because I'm thinking that could've been me laying on the floor dead," he told WNC. "He did not point it at me, but it was clear in sight like he meant business."
Thomas was picked up by police and spent the night in jail. The next day, however, he was back in his shop. He did admit to refusing to serve Hill, saying, "I've had Black people come in the door before and I tell them I don't cut Black hair." But, he says, it's not because he's racist, but because he doesn't know how. That still doesn't explain why Thomas couldn't just give Hill a simple shave.
Thomas says this is the first time telling a Black customer that he can't cut their hair has led to legal action. However, a former customer, Victoria Erwin, said Thomas' past behavior has been offensive to the point that her family stopped supporting his shop. "He walked in and he didn't even have one foot in the door and this man did say, 'I don't do black people's hair,' and they were very shocked," she said.
As for why he felt the need to show off his pistol, Hill said he made no threats while speaking to Thomas, but the barber insists, "I felt threatened." Thomas added that he is no longer allowed to keep his gun at the shop while the case is pending.
The incident has Hill not only rethinking barbers, but also his new home. He moved his family to South Carolina from New York City for a better life, but now he is having doubts about his decision. "I'm thinking about going back [to New York],” he said. "I've been on this earth for 37 years, and have never experienced something like this."
(Photo: Bonnie Schupp/Getty Images)