Posted on September 24, 2007. Filed under: Me and only ME ranting |



Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Ft. Wayne Juvenile Detention Center for 5 days of training.  Marion County put 4 people and me up in a hotel for a week while during the day we were trained in things like dealing with Mental Illnesses, crisis de-escalation, conflict resolution, juvenile rights, cultural sensitivity, etc. The classes were a whole lot of fun as well as the night life.


But I’m not writing this blog to talk about the classes (and I’m sure as hell not talking about what happened on those nights, we bumped and locked that stuff), I’m writing about the race related experiences me and my compadres had while we were out on the town.  Now most who know me know that if someone drops the race card on the table, I’m the first one to say, “You’re trippin’, just because they got a green arrow and you didn’t doesn’t mean that the traffic light is in a racist conspiracy against you.”  BUT, when it hits you smack in the face, no matter what color you are, it’s more real than American Idol (we remember are the articles that were written when the three black people were the only ones in the bottom three one week but Fantasia Borino went on to win the entire thing don’t we?)


Our second night in Ft. Wayne we all decided to go to a breakfast type restaurant for dinner (I won’t name the restaurant).  We were waiting to be seated so I just took the time to kind of eyeball the place and see how it looked.  It seemed that everyone was being seated over on the left hand side of the restaurant and it didn’t appear to be anywhere near packed.  Well, it came time for us to be seated and the manager asked us how many were in our group so I responded with, “We’ve only got 5, sir.”  Mind you, there are 3 white people and 2 black people in the group, we’ll call them Kisha and Joseph.  Anyway, the manager looks dead at Kisha and asks her, “And how many children do YOU have.” 


Now, I want to point out the fact that he didn’t ask any of the people in front of us, he didn’t ask anybody else in our group, just Kisha.  At that time, my eyes got as wide as they could possibly get.  Even Kisha took a step back from that verbal slap in the face.  I expected the next question to be, “And where’s your baby daddy?” or “You paying with food stamps tonight miss?”  Kisha didn’t react other than reeling from the impact of the absurdity of that question and kindly responded no.  We all looked at each other trying not to laugh as he took us to our table.  But, I noticed that something wasn’t right with this picture.  Everyone was going to the left side of the diner, while we were being taken over to the right.  Not only that but we were being taken to the very back of the section.  BEHIND A WALL!  NEXT TO THE KITCHEN PASS!


Now I’m beginning to think to myself, well, at least we’re done with the manager.  OHNONONONO!  The waitress was worse!  Joseph and I both ordered waters for our dinner.  Throughout the course of the meal mine was refilled three times, she wouldn’t even wait until it was halfway empty before she refilled it.  Joseph on the other hand must have looked plenty hydrated because he didn’t get a top off even once, even though his glass remained empty.  Napkins apparently became an issue too.  When the nice young white girl at our table asked for napkins it was, “Sure hon’ I’ll get those in a second.”  When Kisha asked for those same napkins (they hadn’t come and it had been about twenty minutes, not to mention it took 35 minutes for our food to get out) it was, “Yeah then she brought an overloaded amount to be kind of a smartass about it.


When it came to ordering our food, it was more of the same.  Kisha would get talked over by the waitress, she would get skipped, and food would get forgotten.  Joseph didn’t order or say much so he stayed out of the waitress’ crosshairs, thankfully.  And it wasn’t like Kisha was being demanding or asking for lots of different things.  Those of you who know me know I can be a restaurants worst nightmare when I’m not even trying, so I can recognize the warning signs of a restaurant terrorist.  Kisha was no trouble at all.  She was always polite, always sincere and a perfect lady.

When the checks came, the waitress doled them out and we were all in agreement that it was a fine time to leave; no after dinner conversation for us thank you very much.  We heard, “Here you go hon’” and “That’s for you dear” as our server handed us our checks.  Kisha spoke for all of us when she asked, “Ma’am may we please have receipts with these?”  very politely, I would almost say demurely.  The waitress shot back with, “You’re just going to have to wait.”  My jaw hit the greasy table!  I couldn’t believe what I’d just witnessed. 


There was nothing overtly racist about this experience.  There were no uses of the n-bomb, no one called Joseph “Boy”, there were no crosses burning on the front lawn of the restaurant and guys with white hoods weren’t jumping up and down on our van (well, our van WAS white).  But it was the piling on factor of it all.  The consistent rudeness to the only two black people in our group (who are what people would say, “well spoken”) was what set off my race-dar. 


The learning experience came later when I asked Kisha why she didn’t say anything.  I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of, “If I did respond to her actions, if I did trip on what she was saying and doing, all I would be doing is validating what her prejudices were.”  So Kisha and Joseph both kept their cool.  Joseph later told me that it happens sometimes and you just get used to letting it roll off your back.


The next day, Joseph had his own direct experience while we were in one of the Ft. Wayne malls.  We decided to go shopping after our lunch was over and we kind of went our separate ways.  Joseph and I went down one leg of the mall and he found a store with sports jerseys and hats and other memorabilia.  I went into Spencer’s while he took a look in the other store.  While he was in there, he happened to see this little pink Indianapolis Colts Jersey with Jerome Addai’s number on it.  Joseph really wanted to get it for his daughter and asked the lady working the counter how much it was.  She ignored him so Joseph asked again, this time in response she picked up the phone. 


Joseph is a gentleman.  He’s funny, he can get loud and rambunctious but he is an absolute gentleman.  He trusted that the woman may not have heard him and wasn’t simply trying to ignore THE ONLY CUSTOMER IN THIS SMALL STORE!  He asked her one more time how much it was and she finally looked up.  She didn’t look up to pay attention to Joseph, she looked up to make sure the security guard was walking into her store.  He walked around the store pretending to window shop, in full uniform, while peering at Joseph.  Joseph may be a gentleman but he is a human being and has limited patience. 


Disgusted with this treatment, he walks out of the store and over to a fountain in the middle of the mall.  At about the same time I began to walk out of the store I was in and down to his location.  That’s when I see the security guard follow him out of the store and practically stand over him while Joseph took a seat on a bench.  The guard didn’t leave until I walked over and sat down with Joseph. 


To me, this was all unbelievable.  If I hadn’t seen if for myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  I probably would have told them, “You’re trippin’” and been done with it.  But I’ll be damned it was right before my eyes.  For as colorblind as I want my child to be, for as colorblind as I try to be it’s still real, even in larger cities like Ft. Wayne (pop.  500,000).  Whether or not you like someone else’s cultural differences is one thing, I don’t like the Hip-Hop culture myself, but I don’t lump all black people in it.  I also don’t like the Country Music subculture that is starting to rise up either, but I don’t lump all white people in it.  But not liking someone or disrespecting someone for something they’re born with, something that they had no choice over is the supreme ignorance.  The stereotype that they are putting on someone else, they have become themselves.


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One Response to “OMGWTFFTWAYNE?!”

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Wow, that’s crazy. I would’ve been just as stunned as you.

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