Weird experience at the diner yesterday

So a friend I haven’t seen for a while came to visit me recently (part of the reason I didn’t have time to blog on Sunday…Sorry!) He wanted a quick meal before going to see Man of Steel, so we went to the local Chinese Buffet. Good food, nice staff, big comfy booths, and Chinese music played in the background. A pretty cool place, if cheap to eat at.

We selected our food and sat down, discussing what we expected to see in the movie. About 10min into our meal, a black lady from 2 booths down came and stood next to ours. My friend and I looked up and greeted her. Honestly, I thought that maybe she just needed to borrow our Soy Sauce…but no. This was the following conversation:

Her (looking at me): Do you know who I am?

Me (puzzled): I’m sorry, no I don’t.
Her: So you don’t remember me?

Me (even more puzzled): I’m really sorry, lady…but I don’t. Do you shop at my store or live in my neighborhood?

Her (angry): What? No! I would never live anywhere near your neighborhood. You used to work for me. Apparently getting paid by a black woman is still not enough to make whitey remember them…huh?!

With that, she slaps our table and goes back to eating with the other black lady in her booth, who has also turned around to glare at me. My friend asks me if maybe she was my manager when I worked at CVS, or when I volunteered at the Wildlife Rehab. But no, my manager was a large white lady, and the Wildlife Rehab never paid me. I truly had no idea who this woman was, or how I had “worked” for her. It was bizarre, and it didn’t help that she and her friend/relative kept looking around the edge of their booth to shoot me dirty looks.

They finish their meal, and both walk over to stand at our booth again. Her friend/relative is sneering at me, hands folded over her chest. My “accuser” stands with her hands on her hips, and speaks:

Her: You’ve got some nerve, sitting here still. If I’d been as rude as you, I’d have felt ashamed and left. You still have no clue who I am…do you?

Me: I’m honestly very sorry, but no. I don’t.

Her (slaps the table again): You were my kids’ babysitter for a year! I let you in my house, trusted you with my children, paid you well because I felt sorry for you livin’ in that trailer park! I even…

Me: Whoa, ma’am! I’m not sure who you think I am, but you’ve got the wrong white girl. I have never been to a trailer park, much less lived in one. I did babysit for a black lady I knew from work…but she looked nothing like you. Her name was Mylissa, her kids where Aaron and Destiny, and her husband was a white guy named John. And you are not her!

Her: …Your name isn’t Amy? You don’t live down on Clark Street at the old trailer park?

Me: No. Like I said, you have the wrong white woman.

Her (looks down nose): Oh. Well, you have the same body type as her, and you wear the same makeup.

Me: I’m not wearing any makeup. This is my bare skin, my lips and cheeks are normally blush colored.

Her: Oh. Well, you honkies all look the same, anyway. Not my fault for confusing you with another blonde one. Whatever.

She slapped our table again and walked away, she and her companion pointedly not looking at us. My friend watched them leave, mouth agape, while I just sat there. After a bit, we finished our food and went to the movie where we proceeded to share a grape slushy and a box of Milk Duds. I think he realized that I didn’t want to talk about this strange occurrence…but I wanted to post it here before the details blurred in my mind.

I’m really not sure what to think about it. I’ve been called racial slurs before, but never twice in one (literal) sitting. Not that “honky” or “whitey” has the same connotation as the “n word”, but it still is a slur, and I didn’t appreciate being referred to that way. At least I wasn’t called a racist this time.

Of course, according to my former African-American Studies professor, only Caucasians can actually be racist in the US. All other “races” can be prejudice, and sometimes overtly so, but as their bigotry is not institutionalized, they cannot accurately be called racists.

Dr. Beverly Tatum, author of Why are all the Black Kids sitting together in the Cafeteria?  Writes; “In the context of the United States, this system clearly operates to the advantage of Whites and to the disadvantage of people of color…Racial prejudice when combined with social power – access to social, cultural, and economic resources and decision making – leads to the institutionalization of racist policies and practices.”

I’m torn about this type of thinking. While part of me does agree with the Racism = Prejudice + Power model, another part of me worries that this creates a barrier to honest discussion.

Take for example that my experience at the buffet last night was not at all racist, only prejudiced. That if we kept everything else the same but reversed the skin colors…now it is definitely racist, no question about it. But what if she was Asian, and I was still white? Or she remained black, but I was Native American? Can a minority be racist against another minority…or is this necessarily prejudice?

Is it possible to have a frank talk about racial tensions when whites are always racist and everyone else is simply prejudiced?

How are we to even want discussions when, as my African-American Studies professor said;
“White folk come into this world dripping with privilege. The guilt that some of you experience from this is natural, and must be embraced if you wish to see people of color as your equal”.

When someone benefits from a system they did not create, or even want any part of, are they necessarily bad? When someone experiences disadvantages due to that same system, are they automatically good? I don’t know, but that’s how it is portrayed at times.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Please, feel free to comment about what I’ve written or chime in with your own experiences. Just remember to keep it polite and non-abrasive. This is a very difficult topic, and I want people to be able to speak freely. I don’t want to have to delete comments just because of slurs or denials of racism existing.

We all know that racism exists. Let’s try to work through it.

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12 thoughts on “Weird experience at the diner yesterday

  1. Ahh color change!
    What is annoying about this situation Sophia is that you could NOT have said shit to her, because suddenly you are ‘racist’, but she is free to lay into you.

    Now, to connect the pieces, feel what you felt there, and imagine that is how it is for a male with vast portions of the populace you cant say shit to.

  2. Which is precisely why it is necessary to have open, honest, frank discussions about racism, sexism, ageism, etc. Only then can we work to use this information to eliminate inequality.

  3. You sure are optimistic. You’re right, I have no doubt whatsoever about the need for honest (etc) debate, but a lot of people make their living out of there being an insoluble problem.

    I was watching a clip on Youtube the other day which asked whether feminism had accomplished its goals and so could be disbanded…oh noes! The problems are many and subtle and intersectional and blah blah blah. Her whole world view requires that there will always be a problem. There are other examples for race, religion, sexuality, child abuse etc etc

    Basically it’s ‘rent seeking’ behaviour. Cooked up stats, lies, distortions etc are SOP for many businesses that started as genuine charities (NSPCC / RSPCA etc)

    This is a UK site, but I’m sure everything that you see here applies to your country too

    http://fakecharities.org/
    Welcome to Fake Charities, the site that tracks just how much of your money the government is giving to “charities”—and at this time of The Big Society, Fake Charities is more relevant than ever.

    We define a Fake Charity as any organisation registered as a UK charity that derives more than 10% of its income—and/or more than £1 million—from the government, while also lobbying the government. That lobbying can take the form of calling for new policies, changes to the law or increases in (their own) funding.

    Some of these organisations spend a large amount of their time lobbying the state to curtail our freedoms and not all charities are upfront about the amount of money they receive from the state.

    When an ‘independent’ charity takes a political stand or attempts to sway public opinion on matters of policy, we think you have a right to know whether they are being funded by the generosity of the public or by the largesse of the state. We think you have the right to know whether you’re listening to a genuine grass-roots charity or are being fed PR from an astro-turfed lobby group. This site exists to help you make up your own mind about who these campaigners are really working for.

    cool terms to google include ‘rent seeking’ (exagerating a problem from which you make your living), ‘astroturfing’ (creating apparent fake grass roots support)

    Well done on keeping cool, hope you enjoyed the movie.

  4. Ha! This is so incredibly ironic! She accused you of not remembering her because “whiteys” can’t remember (distinguish between) black people’s faces. And yet it was her who couldn’t remember the face because “honkies” all look the same. Wow.

    Race issues aside that’s plain rude, and very stupid. If I made a mistake like that I definitely would be looking to apologize for my behaviour.

    That’s the problem with racism, if you’re white you can’t possibly have a balanced view because you are born into privilege. All I know is I’ve had friends and partners from every continent on this planet, and every colour you can think of having lived and traveled all over.

    And I’ve certainly never felt that one race was superior to any other. Every race has it’s decent people, and it’s indecent people. Smarts and stupid don’t distinguish between skin colour, and neither does anyone with any sense.

    Interesting story, definitely raises a few questions!

    Oh by the way Sophia, did you still want a review copy of my new book? If so send me an email at beardfirepublishing@hotmail.com and I’ll reply with the ebook attached 😉

    Keep well!

    Rohan.

  5. I try to be optimistic but temper it with realism. No, we will probably never be able to get rid of bigotry and prejudice entirely…but we should speak up about it whenever it rears it’s ugly head.

    That fake charities site is great, I will have to see if there’s one for US based organizations. I do donate, but am extremely picky about which ones. Of course, if you donate your time and energy you know exactly how it’s being used!

    And yes, I enjoyed the movie. It was my second time seeing it, but my friend had not so I shelled out another $10.

  6. if only more people would think like you, Rohan! 100% agree with everything you’ve said here.

    Oh, and don’t worry about the book. I already bought it this morning for my iPad and am up to Chapter 4 so far. It’s great reading, and I hope to have my review of it up next week. 🙂

  7. Oh cool Sophia, glad you’re enjoying it so far!

    I look forward to your review 🙂

    Keep well!

    Rohan.

  8. I always call a spade a spade and in point of fact your former professor is lying. For while not all black people are racist enough of them are so that when they do come into power they aren’t shy about abusing that power in favor of their own race while getting a little bit of payback. Hence racism will not die not just because it is a part of human nature but regardless of the race of the individual there are far too many who are willing to indulge in it whenever they get the opportunity.

  9. Why indulge in discrimination though? It seems counterproductive to getting a community to work together if you constantly single out those who simply look different.

  10. LOL Unfortunately when the Man Upstairs announced that he was about to hand out “REASON” far too many people misunderstood His intentions and took off screaming in the opposite direction. 🙂

  11. Rent-Seeking is also used as an economic term to describe businesses who lobby the government for tax exemptions and other monetary benefits while being subsidized by the state. 🙂

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