Dining While Black: Would You Like a Side of Bias with That?
Implicit bias is a misfortune to us all. God Bless.” -Me
I met my family for dinner this evening after work. Due to the nasty weather, we went to an O’Charley’s restaurant that was closest to all of us, a location we usually bypass due to previous experiences with bad service. When I arrived (quite late into their meal), I noticed that my parents’ faces were tense, as if something had gone wrong in my absence. They explained that the server had been treating them noticeably different from the table who arrived after, and was sitting immediately behind, them.
I can’t speak to what happened before I got to the restaurant, but I do know this:
I observed a clear disparity in the server’s attentiveness to our table versus theirs.
I heard the change in tone used toward our table in comparison to theirs.
I noticed that the server was a lot less verbal, and a lot more passive aggressive with us in comparison to our neighbors.
They were checked on repeatedly, cups never seemed to empty, and their table stayed clear between courses. Meanwhile, we were passed by as frequently as possible and our used dishes were left to pile on the table as we attempted to eat. In fact, I finally had to ask, “Could I hand you these dishes (a stack of plates I had neatly arranged)?” adding, “The table is quite crowded.”
Having worked and been a lifelong consumer in the restaurant industry, I am quite familiar with servers’ custom of pre-bussing tables, which ours seemed to employ very selectively. I watched the server leave the kitchen, pass our table to chat it up and wait on her other patrons, then leave without a word to us several times.
And lastly (although the list goes on), I caught every eye roll, hesitation, pursed lip, and nonchalant toss of dishes, and other items placed on the table, each time you had to perform a service while I was there.
To the server: Yes, there was a clear difference in how you treated your Black table vs. your white one. I could have been rude. I could have been nasty. However, I chose not to be. The fact of the matter is that I’ve come across many of your kind before. I could suggest that maybe you were having a bad day, or maybe you were tired; but your consistency in code-switching your pleasantness between your only two tables proved that you were in full control. I am willing to bet money that you saw Black patrons and assumed we weren’t going to tip. Or, maybe living in Trump’s America has you convinced that we should be the servers and not the served. I don’t know what the problem was, but you made it clear that you were displeased by serving us, and that’s okay. I had arrived in the mood to be generous, but since our Black presence was such a nuisance to you, I assumed an excess of my Black dollars would be, too. You still got two tips from me though; a slight (18%) gratuity and a handwritten reminder. Take heed.
To my subscribers and fellow PoC: We are living in very trying times. Stay strong, stay safe out there, and Stay Kultured. Don’t allow the ignorant to sway your integrity or character. I love you all. —K.D., The Kultured Queen
Disclaimer:: Statements above are the opinion and perspective of the blogger and are not intended to defame, influence, or discourage patronage of O’Charley’s, Inc. or associated entities. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which the author has been, is currently, or will be affiliated.