I was at a diner the other night and had a lovely interraction with the cashier. She seemed like an intelligent woman: more than ready to answer my questions about the menu, joke around for a bit and provide me and my friend with quality service.
My friend and I had just sat down when a black man walked in. He asked for a cup of water and the same woman who was just pleasant to my friend and me groaned at this request. She groaned out loud that this black man had the audacity to come into the diner and ask for water.
The cashier got him a cup of water and told him, “I don’t like that you guys keep coming in here. We normally charge for water here.” And then she left.
The man was genuinely confused with what he had done wrong. He stared at his cup of water and called over another waiter. He told the waiter that there was a female employee who had just been rude to him. He asked if he could please have a lid for his cup of water and a straw. The waiter complied and the black man asked to speak to the manger.
I spoke to the black man and told him that what the cashier just did was not okay. It was blatant racism because my friend and I are both white and were treated with decency and respect not two minutes earlier.
But even though we talked for a brief moment, the black man left without speaking to the manager.
When the manger came over, I explained how there was man who had been here who had been treated unfairly by a member of her staff. She told me if he wanted to speak to her he should do so himself. The issue was dropped.
This is casual racism. My friend didn’t even notice there was a confrontation! We are trained to accept racism as a natural occurrence in life that can’t be solved. Racism just is and anyone who thinks otherwise is being too overly sensitive.
People don’t want to listen and see that racism is still a problem. No one listened to the black man who was wronged and no one listened to me try to make things right. Racism-and nearly every other oppressive system–thrives because it is treated with silence.
Break the silence against racism. Stand up and say something because if enough people speak not everyone can be silenced.