Online review platforms such as Yelp and Google operate on the premise that the average dining experience delivers the respect and grace consistent with hospitality mythos. This expectation, of course, operates under the default of a white perspective. While I am sure that those of my collective have encountered outstanding service at times, I am not confident that “outstanding” or even “courteous” constitutes appropriate adjectives that describe the default experience of black diners.
From reluctant to non-existent greetings to those indignant at having to “serve” black customers, black treatment is far more hostile than hospitable. As a black customer, I am often expected to assume a position of service. I am expected to consent to subpar treatment yet pay the same price as everyone else and even feel compelled to pay extra as if to compensate for having to be served at all.
Earlier this month, I had a restaurant encounter that left an unsettling feeling long after leaving the table. I will spare you the specifics, but I will say that the exchange consisted of an inquiry met with a condescending if not callous remark to which the management issued the following response: “I’m sorry you feel this way
I want to pause here and emphasize that the issue was not the comment that the server made. Moreso, the problem is the confidence to which he did so and the cavalier disregard that informed his and his manager’s disposition. Despite the Black Lives Matter signs that ornament the contemporary ambiance, black people remain expected to acquiesce to a social environment where respect is optional.
This “apology” for one’s feelings, relegates anti-black behavior as just that, “feelings.” This behavior may seem innocuous or customary because it is so common, but frequency does not indicate validity.
Thus, despite the contemporary tendency to suggest that things have changed, those of African descent remain subjected to a systemically racist society that misconceptualizes racism as a feeling, not the most sinister form of violence against another human being. Those of the black collective cannot be racist, but as beings indoctrinated by a racist institution, black individuals and black spaces can and do socially reproduce the white supremacist way as symptomic of social and systemic illness.
While this behavior is almost always customary in white establishments, it must be unacceptable in any business that deems itself “black.” I am unsure if it is feasible to call a business a “black” business unless they exist to service black need and treat black customers with the respect and courtesy absent from white and non-black people of color businesses.
As long as respect and accountability remain optional, there has been no progression of race matters in America.
Nevertheless, I write this piece to articulate that this is not okay. While the world may deem it socially acceptable to disrespect black people, the unsettling sentiment that lingers such reminds us of the humanity they try to take from us when the demand for justice becomes relegated to a feeling.
We are worth more than subpar treatment from those who would not be who or where they are without our patronage or patience. So, where we commonly place the benefit of the doubt, I encourage us to demand what you deserve.