Public Displays of Racism & White Privilege

Recently I witnessed possible discrimination happening between two different customers at a restaurant. The person alleging discrimination was Black. What bothered me most was how the hostess apologized to the White couple after she left and then proceeded to apologize to me after I questioned her about what had happened. Our waitress did the same. This woman couldn’t defend herself now that she had left. I asked our server and the hostess if she felt that she was being discriminated against and they confirmed this but denied that any discrimination happened, “Oh that’s not what was going on. I don’t know why she thought that.”

Here’s some truth for you: it probably was happening. I saw that White couple, I saw how they were looking at her. Both the server and the hostess were White. The complaining customer was Black. We’re in Portland It’s quite damn possible that she was being discriminated against.

About a month later I went back to this venue and again noticed that with the same hostess, there were two different couples with Black members and they had been sat in the back, away from the windows or by the kitchen entrance. There were many other seating options closer to other customers that were noticeably unoccupied. This really made me consider the incident I witnessed before and whether or not I was going to patronize this establishment. I once was a friend with a person who worked for that restaurant and he had some decidedly racist and classist things to say when complaining about customers. In this environment I am sadly unsurprised racism could be going down.

The waitress and hostess’ incredulity about what took place is familiar to me. I find that White folks balk at the mention of racism and rush to defend themselves or a situation away from it. I even have friends who will do this. They are quick to try to explain away the person’s actions. My own partner is guilty of it. It’s very frustrating for us to be told that our experience is somehow blind or incorrect.

So what I took away from this, as a Latino, as a person of color, is that I really need White people, (and especially my White friends) to consider that racism does happen to us whether or not they witness or perceive it. That’s one of the “joys” of White privilege; you don’t have to experience racism. So please stow your apologies and explanations.