Thursday, February 06, 2014

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

Those of you that know me in real life probably know that I had a birthday recently. I'm 35 now--don't be jealous ;).

What you probably don't know, is that I witnessed an act of blatant racism at my birthday celebration, which really put a damper on the whole evening. Let me explain...

One thing I love is crab. Another thing I love is the concept of all-you-can-eat. Put those two together and you have all you can eat crab, or as I like to call it--a crabstravaganza.

Being the great guy that he is, my husband made reservations for us at a local seafood place that has all you can eat king crab legs on Thursdays. I personally wouldn't describe it as fancy, but they have tablecloths on the tables. And it's seafood for a landlocked state, so it wasn't cheap.

Anyhoo, we're there and we are enjoying ourselves talking. We had already paid the bill and were just kind of sitting there when all of a sudden we start to hear this commotion. All of a sudden, I hear someone say,

"GHETTO?! Something something something FUCKING GHETTO."

So, I turn to look and I see a youngish black man yelling. There are a few white people around him, I'm assuming trying to get him to stop. He starts to leave the restaurant and his date/girlfriend (who is white,) goes with him. I quickly got my coat and started to follow him out of the restaurant. As I get to the door, I hear someone talking on the phone saying, "He's leaving right now." I make two assumptions here: 1) That person is the manager and 2) The manager is talking to the police. I acknowledge that both of those things could be false.

So I'm trying to catch up with him and he is outside, still agitated, and now being followed by a cook at the restaurant. So I get to him and calmly say, "What happened?"

He tells us that he came in, was talking with his server and asked a question about the menu. Someone near him (he didn't know who,) said,

"Go back to the ghetto."


Now, some of you might be wondering...Well, what did he ask the server?


Those same some of yous may also be wondering, Well, what was he wearing?


The white cook listened for awhile and then said, "Well, if that happened, I'm sorry." They shook hands and the cook went back inside.

So then he and I talked for a few minutes more. I told him that I was sorry that that happened to him, and that the person who did it was wrong. I told him that he should just keep doing the positive things that he was doing in his life. He had basically told me his whole life story in the few minutes that I was talking to him. I honestly think that what had just occurred was so jarring, that he was just still trying to comprehend what happened, so he was talking a mile a minute.

At the end of our conversation, he asked me if he could give me a hug. I was glad that he asked, because I wanted to give him one, but didn't want to offer. Then we all got in our respective cars and left.

I wish I had done two things differently:

1.) I wish I had given him a better hug, because I am an awesome hug-giver.

2.) I wish I had said, "Keep your head up." That exact phrase, because a stranger said it to me several years ago, and it had a profound impact on my life. It was random, but I guess the stars were all aligned that day or something.

My husband and I talked quite a bit about what happened, and like the title says, I did cry about it. I can already tell you that Anonymous doesn't like that, but you know what--I don't care. I am a sensitive person, and seeing people be cruel to one another makes me sad.

One of the things that we talked about was how the person that made the comment is probably feeling quite satisfied with himself, because he sees the outburst that happened as proof that his feelings were justified. Completely forgetting the fact that he is the one that started the whole pathetic scene by being a complete a-hole.

I mean, really--is it too much to ask that a person be free to go to whatever restaurant they'd like without wondering if some other random diner is going to try to insult him? I don't think so.

Then I wondered what all the other white diners did, after we left. I know other people heard what was said, how did they react?

Some suggestions from my id:

What the f-ck did you just say!? also,
You're an embarrassment to white people.

Some better ideas:

That was uncalled for. I know you think everyone agrees with you, but I don't.
From the manager: Please leave.

But who knows what happened? I don't.

I honestly believe that incidents like this are part of the reason that black people's life expectancy is 4 years shorter than white people's. Experiences like this raise your blood pressure. And even if they don't happen, wondering if they are going to happen when you're with unfamiliar people has to have an impact on your stress level.

I also thought about what allowed me to go out and talk to him, really without even thinking about it. I decided it was love.

Because it was my birthday, I had been showered with love that day from my friends and my family. People I've known since elementary school, new friends I've recently made, people I've never met except on the computer, people I only met once but thought were cool and made be my friend on Facebook--these people took time out of their day to show me that they cared about me. I was also blessed to grow up in a house where I felt valued and appreciated. I had just finished a dinner with a man that loves and respects me. All that love pushed me out the door to try and bring comfort to someone who needed it.

So, like I said in my status update the next day--try to spread love into the world. I think the guy who made the comment needed some more love in his life.Even if you're scared, just do what you know is right, and don't let fear hold you back. When you don't live your values, you let yourself down. That is worse than any likely negative repercussion you would face from speaking up.

I could say more, but I'll end it here. If you're thinking/feeling something--let me know in the comments.

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  1. Sometimes All we can do is spread some love because it's too hard to figure out or can't be fixed. So glad to know you

  2. Oh, wow. This touched my heart and I thank you for posting. These comments hurt. When I was growing up I had a friend whose family would call me "bean". That was their nickname for me and I didn't realized until years later how horrible and wrong that was and how it truly affected me to this day. I am glad you showed love to this person, but I am sad you weren't able to give him a better hug, because you are truly the best hug-giver. :) I miss you and am glad to call you my friend.

  3. Anonymous10:58 AM

    First of all -- your capacity for love, and hug-giving, is legendary. I so appreciate the care with which you handled this, and with which you told this story.

    What I hate most is what you point out as the likely result among the white diners -- they are left with confirmation of their stereotypes. Having witnessed an emotionally charged engagement, I'm sure their generations-deep fear of the black man activated and solidified. I only wish they could have witnessed the cook and you talking with this gentleman, and you giving him a hug. I only wish more people could witness love.

    We just need to give them as many opportunities to do so as we can. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I spent five minutes after your post trying to come up with an eloquent response to the racist bugger. Looks like I would have settled for profanity, had I been there. =P I admire your capacity for constructive behavior.

  5. Your White Friend2:56 PM

    Posts like this are why this blog is so important. I hope that if I'm ever in a situation like this, I can be one of the white diners who says "shame on you". Your love and courage give me the courage to that.

  6. Thanks, @myblackfriend - well said. Well said. I was thinking about how, when Kramer (the actor who played Kramer) went into a rage and flung racist insults at some patrons, some black (I think) patrons, said just that, "That was uncalled for." They also insulted him a little bit back, but that phrase is a good one to reach for, when you're a little stunned or speechless about people behaving badly.

  7. Anonymous9:31 PM

    I've had some racist encounters myself and I just don't think that any good is going to come from protracting the encounter with a racist person. They know, for instance, that all black people aren't from the ghetto so what good will it do to try to convince them otherwise with either a good tongue lashing or MLK-like reaching across the aisle? At this point I think the best thing to do is deprive them of the thing they want most -- a reaction.

    (Let me know if you think otherwise because I love to be wrong lol)