An employee of a Holiday Inn Express hotel in Austin, Texas, has become an overnight meme after he recorded himself calmly denying services to a woman he heard use a slur against him — and then he was quickly called out for his past insensitive comments about transgender people.
Craig Brooks, 26, told BuzzFeed News that he overheard the woman call him a "fucking nigger" on the phone while trying to make a reservation.
So, when she came to the front desk, Brooks told the woman repeatedly that he could not have her stay at the hotel because "it's above [him] now."
His recording, and his now-famous line, has gone viral since he shared it late Sunday night after he got off his shift.
Soon after his video went viral and he was praised for his response — including by BuzzFeed News — internet sleuths discovered and blasted Brooks's old tweets in which he makes countless denigrative and offensive remarks about trans people.
Brooks himself has responded to these tweets and backlash by saying he's not "against" trans people — he's just not "with it."
When asked about his rapid milkshake-ducking, Brooks told BuzzFeed News: "They’re mad lol I said what I said. People are so sensitive. I’m gay and I KNOW people will not agree with me being gay. I just don’t and will never get trans. Period."
However, a few hours later Brooks changed his tune and publicly apologized for the comments, saying he spoke out of anger and will "change his behavior."
Brooks works in guest services at the Holiday Inn Express, and his road to internet fame began Sunday night when a woman reached him trying to book a room. He explained to her that the hotel had an automated reservation line.
"When I sent her there twice, she called back, and at this point she was hostile on the phone. I was like, whoa," said Brooks.
The woman told him her mom just died, so she needed assistance and a booking immediately.
"I told her, 'I understand that but you don't have to be so disrespectful and hostile,'" he said, adding that he proceeded to gather all of her information to try to book a room.
"I said, 'Is there anything else I can do for you?' I paused, and she didn't think I was on the phone with her anymore because her husband said something, and she yelled, 'This effing n-word,' and I said, 'Excuse me?' and she hung up."
Brooks said following the startling and abrupt end of the call, he then made a call himself to upper management explaining what had happened and asked them how he should proceed.
"[Management] said they have zero tolerance for racism," he said, and that he could refuse her stay.
"Two minutes later, she's walking in, and that's when I pressed record."
In the video, you can hear the woman plead, and then apologize for using the slur, to try to complete the transaction.
"I said I was sorry," she's heard saying to him.
"I understand that but it's— it's above me now," he responds, referring to upper management who gave him the direction. "It's above me. Sorry. The Best Western is next door."
Brooks told BuzzFeed News following the end of the recording, the woman's daughter and rest of the family came down to try to convince him to allow their mother to stay there. However, it was too late.
"It was past 11 [p.m.]; it was time for me to go home," he said. "They were talking but I was not paying attention. I'm not worrying about y'all."
He clocked out, shared his interaction on Twitter so friends could commiserate with him, and went to bed. The next morning, he said, he woke up to millions of views. It's currently been retweeted more than 115,000 times. Gabrielle Union even reshared his video, adding the hashtag #ItsAboveMe.
People are applauding Brooks for how he handled the interaction. His phrase "I understand that, but it's above me now" quickly became its own meme.
Brooks believes his video has gone so viral because it was really resonated with the the lived experiences of black and brown people, and because it specifically hit the Black Twitter community.
"Black Twitter loves it because I gathered her while being professional," he said.
"Everyone close to me is dragging me and saying, 'That's not how you would have normally handled it,' which is true," he said, laughing. "But I have to think, OK, do I lose my job while gathering her together, or do I stay professional? And I could be petty about it. That's the route that I went. The only thing I regret was I did not catch her face because she was so upset."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to his employer, Holiday Inn Express, for comment. Brooks said since his video has gone viral, he received a call from general management, which first worried him. But they told him they were going to stand fully behind him, he said.
"They were 100% behind me ... and said, 'You handled it correctly.'"
Brooks added that while racism and racist remarks are still a common occurrence in 2019, he advises anyone who has to confront it to at least act "unbothered."
"Even if we're living in a time when we still have to deal with racist, combative white people, just be professional about it," he said. "Kill them with kindness. What you're doing to me is not getting under my skin. Just be unbothered."
This post has been updated to include the backlash against Brooks and his old anti-trans tweets — and an apparently record-fast milkshake-ducking.