Saturday, June 24, 2006

Final Notes on Racism

In response to some of your comments from my last post, I’ll post a few final observations and then I’ll be moving on.

TTD asked “why were you denied service in denny's & a grocery store?” Simple answer – I’m white (in fact, I’m practically luminescent) and I was in places where that’s not fashionable. Of course, I assume she wanted some more details, so here we go.

The grocery store incident happened in Birmingham, a city wherein I dealt with racism on a daily basis. I stopped at a small, independently-owned grocery store for a few items. It was in a black neighborhood, but being in the Birmingham city limits means you’re almost always in a black neighborhood, so that didn’t concern me. I grabbed the things I needed and headed for an empty checkout line. The young cashier languidly wiped the conveyor belt with a cloth for a moment, looked up at me, and then looked back to her rag and mumbled “I’m busy.” The customer behind me, the only other white guy in the place, jokingly said “Aw, c’mon, surely you’re not too busy to ring up a few items.” She laughed, but then turned and walked away and started a conversation with a few other employees, who also weren’t helping any customers. By “started a conversation” I mean she called some guy a “nappy-headed” something or other, and they began to loudly trade insults.

The manager walked out of his office, looked at the white guys waiting in line at an open but unmanned (or unwomanned, in this case) register, looked at the crowd of employees goofing off, laughed, shook his head, and went back into his office. I dropped my stuff and walked out. Being Birmingham, I was used to being served after the non-white customers, but it was the only time I had been absolutely refused. I stuck to the larger chains after that – they generally don’t engender such blatant racism.

The Denny’s thing was a surprise. It happened in Atlanta, a city in which I’ve rarely encountered prejudice, and the times it has happened have mostly been minor inconveniences, such as when a pair of black men refused to drive through a traffic light until it turned red. Then they sped through the intersection, looking at me and howling with laughter. Yes! They made me sit through another cycle of the traffic light! They rule! :p Personally, I can’t even get mad at people for petty stuff like that. It’s so pathetic, I just have to laugh. I can imagine people like that sitting down for supper that evening (supply your own ebonics):

Woman: How was your day, dear?
Man: Excellent. I inconvenienced a white man.
Woman: How marvelous. I myself held up two white people.
Man: Double points! I’m so proud of you, sweetie.

Anyway, I went to Denny’s last Christmas, unaware of the existence of Umezono and the fact that they are open every single day of the year. They were crowded, as expected, so I stood in line and gave the hostess my name and the fact that I was alone. She told me it would be a long wait, but I didn’t care because I brought a good book with me. As I stood waiting, another family told me that single people ahead of me had been seated immediately on the stools at the breakfast bar. I asked the hostess if I could go in, and she reluctantly nodded.

I sat at the bar reading, but nobody took my order. After about twenty minutes, I started to look around and take the place in. The customers were the usual demographic of the local population, mostly white, black, and Hispanic with a few Indian families in the mix, but the employees were all black except for a Latino waitress and manager. The other single people at the breakfast bar were also black, and I began to wonder if the slow service was due to my skin color, or perhaps my patented creepy vibe ©. I can’t be sure that the reason was that I’m white, although I kept watching and noticed the other white families were getting slow (but not no) service.

One waitress noticed me and seemed bothered by my treatment. Even though I wasn’t in her area, she rushed over (she was extremely hardworking) and asked if I had been helped. I said I had not, so she promised to get someone to help me. She informed one of the other waitresses, who nodded, waited for the first waitress to return to her station, and then promptly walked away. The concerned waitress’s shift ended, and she left moments later. I returned to my book, figuring I would wait them out, but grew tired of reading after an hour. I looked up, noticed other black customers had joined me and had already been served, so I left, filed a complaint on Denny’s web site, and have not returned.

I have read some comments left by Japanese people about Umezono on a restaurant guide’s site. Most seemed to like it, but the few who didn’t said the service was atrocious (the complaining Americans always say the place is cramped). Anyone who thinks Umezono’s service is bad needs to have the Denny’s experience. After they recover from their coma, they’ll never complain again.


Enemy of the Republic said...

I know for a fact that Denny's poisons people. I have eaten there and repeated gotten food poisoning. For some reason, my husband is okay. Racism--maybe, but my husband is white, Italian and American Indian, plus like you, he is ready to kick ass 24/7. So Denny's has a plot against my female behind. If it's marriage swapping they are after, I will negociate. I'm just sick of getting sick there. No more Dennys for me, but my husband still enjoys breakfast there.

JohnB said...

I'd rather eat chilled monkey brains than eat at Denny's, racists ones or not.

Angie said...

I think those 2 guys who refused to go through the traffic light were in front of me in Decatur last week!

SJ said...

I ate at Denny's at Las Vegas and that was the only time. Our waitress was actually very friendly and efficient ... and white.

Anonymous said...

never been to denny's. but i do think it could just be your trademark creepy vibe ;)

hell u scare enough people anyway i dont know why you're surprised!

PBS said...

It would depend on where the Denny's was located. We've gone to the one in Mpls/St.Paul with no problem but that's in white-bread land.

Kira said...

Umezono was lovely. I was very happy with my experience there. People who don't like the place can stuff it :)

patti_cake said...

I used to love to eat at Denny's when we had one "Moons over My Hammy" rules!
Ah Grant, i'm so proud of you for not whipping out the uzi on them! :P

hellbunny said...

Denny's has trash food anyway.

Grant said...

enemy - I think most just try to kill their patrons with cholesterol.

johnb - mmm...chilled monkey brains.

angie - I hope you shot them to death.

sj - you were in Vegas and you ate at Denny's? Vegas is know for the buffets.

fatty - you have to live in a civilized country to have a Denny's. :p

pbs - this one was actually situated in a mixed area with near even amounts of white, black, and Hispanic people.

kira - hopefully the rude jerks will eschew that place in the future.

patti_cake - I used to love their food too, although I thought it was too much for a single meal. Now that I'm Japanese, I have no craving for that stuff. Besides, Umezono is also open on Xmas.

hellbunny - I agree with you now. Denny's, Waffle House, and IHoP = poison.