Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't Act Black. . .

You know how this goes. I sigh --

A stunning day in Los Angeles. The sun shines and the wind blows in between the strands of my hair. I sit at a table with a few Friends.

Friend 1: "Yeah, I'm digging your blog but would love a visual element to the conversations you write out."
Friend 2: "Totally man, I agree."
Me: "Oh, for real? Okay, I will definitely start doing that then."
Our new Waitress comes over to us with the champagne we ordered. She looks like a thicker version of Margaret Cho. And, her smile is just as charming. As she pours it into a glass, it overflows. I notice --
Me: "Oh, no. Now you'll have to give us more sangria to make up for it."
Waitress: "Gurl, stop acting black."
Hmmm...uh, wait.....what did she just say?
Me: "Um, excuse me but you don't say that to people. Ever."
Friend 2: "Yeah, come on now."
Waitress: "Oh, gurl, I didn't mean it in a mean way."
Me: "Clearly, but it was still offensive."
Waitress: "Oh. Well, I'm sorry."
She awkwardly stomps away, still not getting how rude her words were. Did she seriously say that to me?
Friend 1: "Dude, what was she thinking? I was a waitress for thirteen years and that shit would never come out of my mouth in a billion years."
Friend 2: "I don't know, but that wasn't right."
I sit there as we start talking about something else. A few minutes go by...maybe ten and I find myself still feeling hurt by what she said. I ask myself, "when I leave here, will I feel bad for not saying something to her superior?" And before I could answer, I was up and away (after I excused myself from the table).
It didn't take long to find a Manager.
Me: "Excuse me, are you the manager?"
Manager: "Yes, can I help you?"
Me: "Yes, I would like to talk to you in private."
She looks at me for a second, knowing it ain't good. We move over to the side where my friends can clearly see us talking.
Manager: "First off, I want you to know that our waitress is a nice woman and I don't want her to face any punishment except for a slight admonishment."
Manager: "Okay."
Me: "Thank you. My friends and I were enjoying a nice meal until your waitress made a racist comment."
Manager: "Oh my goodness, what did she say?"
As I explain the situation to the Manager, I see her face turn into genuine shock. She was expecting something bad, but not this bad.
Manager: "I don't even know what to say. I mean, she's so nice and has a great sense of humor. Sometimes she just doesn't know when to stop."
Me: "I know. I see that she is a decent person which is why I am here talking to you because if she had said that to a not-so-nice individual, a not-so-nice-thang might have gone down."
Manager: "You're absolutely correct. I will talk to her right away and have sangria, on me, sent over. I am so sorry for this. My goodness."
Me: "It's okay. I had to say something so that perhaps she'll learn from this and not make the same mistake. You never say racist, offensive things to clients."
Manager: "You're absolutely right."
I walk away, knowing I did the right thing. And although the Waitress looked hurt after that, I know that in the long run she'll be better off for the experience and knowledge gained.

It's not often that I'll do something like that. And, five years ago I would have never said something. But, those days are gone. I was offended and hurt by her words. Plain and simple. If you don't speak up, no one else will.


I think before we speak up it must come from a nice place in our heart. I had no intention of getting her fired or gaining anything out of it. The meal wasn't even free. Now, if I wanted to make it free, I would have. But, it wasn't about that. We can still get our point across without coming from a negative place. And, often times, that's when we make the strongest impact.

Later, that evening, one of the friends I was with at the restaurant comes up to me.

Friend 2: "Yo, I can't tell you how thankful I am that you went up to her. Like, that was something I would be thinking about tomorrow and wishing I had said something."
Me: "I feel ya."
Friend 2: "I'm proud of you, gurl. You're all, like, growing up 'n shit."
I smile.
Me: "Yeah...I'm trying to."
Friend 2: "It's working. When I saw you go over to the Manager and speak your mind part of me just exhaled. Like, "Thank God." You did it with class and dignity. It was so cool."

And her words meant the world to me.

Cheers. Be kind, please.

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