Funny story–the other night my bestie Stephon (shown above) and I went to get dinner at a (higher-end) restaurant near my apartment. It’s a rustic, nice Italian restaurant that is a pretty common date spot (or for sassy young ladies and their bestie Stephon). The food was absolutely amazing, and it was a great meal. It really was. I’m not going to let the weird atmosphere and vibe of the other dinner parties affect my views on the food. The food was phenomenal, the chicken liver pate with toasts and truffle honey, the giant rigatoni, the mushroom, leek and truffle oil pizza…all of it.
The awkward part came when the two of us were sitting there, talking, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone intensely staring at us. I tried to brush it off, but as we kept enjoying dinner, and the wonderful conversation we were having, more and more people were staring at us, whispering to each other. Somehow, although we were seated directly in the center of the restaurant, we had become complete and utter outsiders.
I looked at him, once we had finished our meal (and received plenty of dirty looks, whispered commentary, and stares), and said, “I think we should head out, because I’m unsure if I want to be here.. you know.”
“I understand completely,” he said, nodding. We hurried out of there, and as soon as we hit the sidewalk, I turned to him, and replied,
“That wasn’t somewhere that I really wanted to be ethnically.”
The first time he had said that phrase was at a bar in River North, where we were essentially ignored by staff, and told that we had to share a menu because they were short. Although everyone else in the bar received their own menu, and received tons of attention and friendly treatment, we were brushed off and ignored. The singular difference between Stephon and I, and everyone else in that bar was that we were not Caucasian.
(Of course, I am not equating my uncomfortable restaurant situation to discrimination that occurs elsewhere, that can be much, much more emotionally, physically, and mentally dangerous. I am just writing about a personal experience that I have had).
Although things are much more complicated for Steph than I, I refuse to “adopt” his struggles and issues, as that would be evoking another form of privilege. I can only discuss my own struggles and issues, and state my boundless support and love for what he goes though.
Whenever either of us comments that we don’t want to be somewhere ethnically, it’s a sad thing. I genuinely think that although as a society there has been so much progress made, and advancement, we are still so antiquated.
I genuinely think it’s sad, that in 2016, people question how an African American man and a young Asian American woman can be at a higher end bar or restaurant, and how there are places that I would feel, or made to feel uncomfortable, as an ethnic young woman. How my friend and I would be treated differently by staff, or given negative unnecessary attention, it’s upsetting.
When things like this happen, it really makes me think about how everyone believes that we are so diverse and so accepting of other people regardless of sexuality, economic status, or ethnicity (among other things). But in reality, although we (at least in Chicago) are pretty diverse, the amount of acceptance or tolerance really is not as great as we think it is.