Yesterday, a story ran in the Globe and Mail about an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling for a restaurant to pay a Black man $10,000.00 in compensation. He and his (Black) friends were asked to prepay for their food.
You can read the article here.
It’s more evidence of anti-Black racism in this country.
And it’s another example of how bias – unconscious or otherwise – works.
Emile Wickham was out with friends celebrating a birthday.
The server asked them to prepay for their food.
When they inquired, they were told it was a policy.
When he asked other patrons, none of them had been asked to pre pay.
Hmmm…so either there was a policy and a clear option whether or not to enforce it, or there was no policy at all and this was a choice. Either way, this is an example of racism.
In a submitted comment by the restaurant, they stated that they tended to attract a “transient crowd” that tended to “dine and dash”.
You do the math:
Black = transient crowd
Black = likely to dine and dash
Black = risky customer
Let’s compare this to the Starbucks incident.
Black = trespassing
Black = reason to be nervous
Black = not a valued patron
See a pattern?
How do these mental associations happen?
Every day we are surrounded by messaging about who has value and who doesn’t, who has more value and who has less. Some of the messages are covert – like who we just don’t hear about or see in the media (= less value). Some are overt – like who is considered a terrorist/what a terrorist looks like (= less value) and what a leader looks like (= more value).
These messages impact us daily, and don’t impact us in the same way. Some groups get the lion’s share of positive messaging about their value, while others get the lions share of negative messaging. This is how isms (racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc) become systemic and survive.
And eventually these messages simply become “the way it is” and we don’t question them.
And then a group of Black people can walk into a restaurant and be asked to pre-pay for their meal. Because “you know what being Black means.”
What you can do:
The first step in countering racism (or any ism) is to notice that it exists and to recognize how it shows up – especially systemically.
Then, we have to be willing to catch the ways we are complicit in perpetuating it.
When you do this, what do you notice?