Sunday, June 24, 2007

What Do You Think?

You’re in an Indian restaurant looking forward to a fabulous curry dinner. Your server is African-American.

You’re traveling through Carolina country and decide to stop for some slow cooked pork barbeque. Yummmmm. Your server is Asian.

You’re in St. Louis visiting family and they take you to the “Hill” for what is sure to be a fantastic Italian dinner. Your server is British.

You’re in Ybor City with the Latin music pulsing through your veins and the smells of a cabaña dinner occupying your every thought. Your server is Russian.

You’re in the Deep South craving genuine soul food and find the perfect off the beaten track, sure to please hole in the wall diner. Your server is a Yankee.

You starting to get the picture here?

Would the fact that your server, in what you perceive to be an ethnic or at the very least culturally inspired restaurant, impact your dining experience if the server didn’t live up to your perceived ethnic/cultural representation of the food? Would it? Has it? Crazy?

So here’s the twist. This morning we’re sitting in a small groups study class at church. Somehow or another in answering one of the questions a lady in our group remarked how her son is having a hard time finding a job. Then she relates how he applied for a job at one of the businesses in the Food Court at one of our local malls but didn’t get the job.

She thinks he may not have gotten the job because he wasn’t Chinese. You'll have to use your own imagination to figure out what kind of restaurant this was.

Aly and I didn’t say a word. In fact, we didn’t even look at each other. I had my thoughts and as it were, so did Aly. I remember cringing at the time. I remember thinking: Should this offend me? I remember thinking of Alyzabeth An..... For the record, this person asks us how our adoption is going every Sunday.

Question to you all.

Would her statement have upset you and if so, why? Assuming you would have, how would you have responded to her assertion that her son was not hired because he wasn’t Chinese? And finally, please hold the Christian bashing if you’re so inclined. An evil heart wasn’t at work here and anyway; it’s hard enough being human without having to defend the fallibility's of the human soul…



C.J. said...

I think your opening scenarios are quite awesome, myself. My experience is not going to be lessened due to the ethnicity of someone staffing the business. Trying to 'engineer' the ethnicity of the staff is taking the 'window dressing' of a business too far in my opinion.

Not that it's right but such discrimination certainly happens regarding other 'desired features' of staff. Still, I would probably have responded something along the lines of supporting an environment where this is equal opportunity for all.

Johnny said...

That's an interesting question. I'm thinking that the woman may have had a right to be indignant. After all, does the face of the person serving you food at a food court Chinese restaurant matter? I don't think so.

However, if it was at a sit-down restaurant where the waiters are expected to handle questions in Mandarin, then yes the owner has a right to say, "I don't care what your skin color is, if we have Chinese customers who wish to ask questions about the menu in Mandarin, you have to be able to answer."

I didn't find the woman's comment offensive, actually.

Wendy said...

I don't think her comment would have offended me. I guess I would have to hear her tone of voice or if she was just joking. I guess sometimes it seems like one has to fit certain profiles in order to do certain things. Maybe that's what she is getting at?

Wendy said...

Her comment would not have offended me. I think I would have confronted her with her own question asking her why she thought that. Most people don't realize what they are saying.

Thanks for the wonderful comments on our blog. We look at Larkyns picture as often as we can.

A Special Family said...

My experience would never be lessene by someones ethnicity, in fact I would probably look at it as a blessing - I get to eat yummy Chinese food and learn about Russia...where by the way there is quite a large chinese community!

Sadly, even people with kind hearts often fall into using race as a barrier...

Elisa, Jarrod & Thomas said...

No the comment would not have offended me.
Although the harder thing is hiring people of the same race for a restaurant, if you do than that's authentic, if you don't then that racist.
everyone should really be entitled to work where they want if they have the experience.

Rina, John & Annalisa said...

I hear comments like that ALL THE TIME and not just toward Chinese, but toward Italians (keep in mind that I am Italian. Born and raised); immigrants (I'm an immigrant too); foreigners and so on and so on.
Do I take offense? Sometimes! I have been in the U.S.A. for half of my life and learned to pick my battles. I have learned that some people have such an ingrained opinion of anybody that doesn’t look like them or comes from the same country or doesn’t share the same believes that it’s not worth my time and energy to change their views.
My family in law often makes disparaging comments about “foreigners” or “immigrants” or “Russians” or “Chinese” (it depends on who’s upsetting them that particular day).Somehow, they truly don’t believe that Annalisa and I are part of the same group they are making ugly comments about. I can’t change their skewed opinions. It’s too ingrained in their mind and believes. These are people that have been very sheltered in their lives. They never traveled to a foreign country; they were never exposed to a different culture or lifestyle but their own; they never felt the curiosity to learn about anything outside of their immediate surroundings (and I feel sorry for them).
I can’t change them but I can educate Annalisa to ignore such comments; Accept that she’ll be the target of some ugly remarks or offensive comments at one point or another in her life.
I’m using my energy to teach her to embrace and be proud of our diversity and to be open minded of other races, cultures or life styles. It’s OK to not always say something back or argue with the people that make those type of remarks.
You can’t change other people’s opinion but you can change how you deal with them.


rubyiscoming said...

Unfortunately, we still live in a US culture where not EVERYONE embraces diversity. It wouldn't "offend me" in this case, but I might have asked her something like "truly? are you certain it is because of his ethnicity? or maybe how he interviewed that day?" -- maybe relating it back to something else that could have been afoot....was her son dressed inappropriately? late to an interview? etc...?

Just other the way, I once was headhunted to work for an African-American non-profit organization - and I am not black! I was completely honored to be considered for the position but couldn't take it because of the commitment I had made to my (at the time) current employer to finish a campaign. Some people DO see beyond color! :)

And, I for one do not have a problem if I am in a Thai restaurant and am served by a waiter/ress who is definitely not of a Thai background ---- just as long as they bring me my Panang Curry hot, hot, hot! :)


redmaryjanes said...

It has never bothered me that my waiter did not match the ethnicity of the restaurant I was in. And while I do believe that there is racism in this country, I would like to think that we are further along than holding back someone from a foodcourt job.