March 26, 2021
What would you do if someone was racist towards a member of your community? What would you do if that person was your friend? This is not a hypothetical question; this is a question we all have to ask ourselves, am I racist or am I anti-racist?
On the evening of March 17th, a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) friend that lives in the County had her honesty questioned, her dignity robbed and her faith in our community rocked. She was denied access to a local restaurant/bar, where she and her white husband were meeting two other PEC residents. Other patrons confirmed to this couple that they were allowed in without ID. All of these patrons were white. Yet this sole BIPOC woman was not allowed in, even though her husband who was there could produce ID. This led her husband to inform the hostesses that their racism was showing. This could be interpreted depending on your point of view. What happens next is not. Below are excerpts of a message the owner sent to explain the actions taken by her staff.
…I want to clarify that my staff were only following the rules that we have developed…There is absolutely no racist connotation in any of this nor is there any discrimination against urban or other communities…My staff were quite devastated by your accusations last night. I do totally understand how you may be conditioned to see events in this way but you can be assured a prejudicial response will never occur in our watch at… Our apologies that your evening was marred and I hope you will return on the better days ahead…”
Let’s break it down. The original incident involved differential treatment. We know that individuals make mistakes but one thing we’re hearing at AWH is of BIPOC community members being “carded” when their white friends, neighbours and family are not. On an individual basis, it could be about untrained staff or a forgetful moment. When we start to see it happening repeatedly, we see patterns and systemic discrimination. To be clear, this is not an isolated incident. This is the definition of racism in action.
The owner’s response is where things get much clearer.
The immediate denial of our friend’s experience is an exhausting part of being BIPOC. Sadly, we’re all subject matter experts on racism and how it feels. It’s been happening to us our whole lives and we know when it’s happening. White folks discomfort about being called out on racist actions is NOT equivalent to being victimized by racism. https://www.changecadet.com/blog/2020/7/17/white-centering
Focus on staff
The response focuses on how hurt the staff were by the accusation. White victimhood in full effect. Imagine the humiliation of the actual victim of the act. Trying to attend a gathering at a place she has supported for years and still being “othered.” From a customer service point of view, it’s baffling. We certainly don’t agree with “the customer is always right” but if I had insulted and demeaned one of my customers, my focus would be on apologizing, addressing the complaint and ensuring it never happened again.
“I do totally understand how you may be conditioned to see events in this way but you can be assured a prejudicial response will never occur in our watch at…”
I’ve read that line so many times and it makes my blood boil every time. Conditioned to see events in this way? How about: life experience which has taught us to recognize racism.
The faux sympathy of the statement which actively erases the experience and knowledge of BIPOC is infuriating. It implies that we see racism where it isn’t happening because we’re “too sensitive” – that old chestnut. This stuff is exhausting. No one wants someone they’ve known (or anyone) to demean and diminish them. We want it not to be true.
It also ignores the concept that white people are equally members of the same society that would “condition” us. Does the owner believe that racism only exists in the minds of BIPOC and has no impact on white people at all?
Finally, how can we be assured? When you were told you did something racist, you blasted the people who told you about it and denied it happened. How can you fix what you say never happens? Deciding that you aren’t racist is actually NOT being anti-racist. bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES
We are not sharing the specific names involved. The BIPOC woman to whom this happened is the victim and her privacy should be respected. Candidly, she fears reprisals. I’m so proud of this friend for coming forward and shining the light on something that happened to her.
We have also decided not to name the business, staff or owner. Firstly, because we’re not here to shame people. Secondly, because this is not a unique incident and we hope the discussion that flows out of this will inform all. Please don’t ask us privately, you’ll be wasting your time.
We share this with you in hopes that you are inspired to talk to your neighbours, your colleagues, your friends, and help advocate for equity and inclusion on our community.
Founder, All Welcome Here