Saturday, July 21, 2007


last night i went over to the Nob Hill neighborhood to a restaurant called Papa Haydn's. if you live in portland, you know what a great place it is. my brother, his wife and i went out at about 10 pm for some dessert. we waited about 30 minutes and then we were seated. the hostess sat us in the very back.

i always notice where i'm seated in a restaurant. if i'm with my husband and we're seated in the back, i have to wonder if maybe it's because we're interracial, or just because at least one of us is black. i can't help it. and you'd never know i was thinking this. i just play along. despite how my thoughts in this blog may portray me, i truly don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder, honest.

my dad used to have this thing whenever we'd go out-he NEVER wanted to sit towards the back, or by the dirty dish carts. i think he was grossed out by it but i also think it was a possible racism thing. and if we were seated there, he always made a big deal out of it and insisted the server seat us elsewhere. he never mentioned race but i think it was a factor in him being so picky about where we sat.

so last night, my brother insisted we sit somewhere else-at another table so he could sit by the window,he said. although i took note of us being seated in the very back, i was content to just sit there. it was crowded, busy (but there were other tables available), and i was too tired to care. my mom never brought up race and the seating but i think deep down maybe she wanted to see to it that we were not seated in the back.

white people never have to wonder about why they might have been seated where they're seated. if they're seated in the way back, it's just because that's what was available. end of story. but, i've never worked in a restaurant, so it's possible that's there's some method to the seating and i don't have a clue. if i'm not careful, i can read racism into lots of things. i try not to. i'm not even suggesting that it was racism last night. i don't know. but i also try not to overlook obvious racism it if i can help it. i think the desire to get a 'fair shake' despite being black is just ingrained in me, so i'm always aware of the little things.


Anonymous said...

In response to your comment about the method to the seating in a restaurant:
The servers all take turns in the 'rotation'. Your server in that section of the restaurant was the next one to get a table.

Also, at 10:00 on a Friday night, some of the servers that had been there longer were about to get cut to go home, even though it was busy. That factors into which tables are seated. When servers start to go home, some places will 'close' a section and not seat in that area at all, and some will just make each servers section of tables bigger.

Still, it generally isn't a big deal if you want to switch because everybody does it.

For what it's worth, I have worked as a server for many years, in more mixed neighborhoods and in very white neighborhoods. I know it happens, but I personally have never seen or heard that someone was seated in the back because they were black, nor that anyone suddenly changed the rotation for no reason when black customers came in. Even if the host or hostess wanted to, the servers would pitch a fit about being 'skipped'. Like I said, I know that there are a-holes that do that, but I think that it's pretty rare.

Anonymous said...

While I've never considered the idea of where I'm seated a factor of my race, it is quite an interesting concept. I am also in an interracial relationship and I dont think I've ever been treated differently. Sometimes I think my wife gets preferential treatment because she is with a black guy. Guess we have to grateful that "White Only Signs" are not hanging from the doors.

BeautyinBaltimore said...

I'm coming back to read more!

The Letter K said...

You know...I think it's a really interesting thing that you're so afraid of racism from white people, but your entire blog (and believe me, I've read the whole thing) is full of stereotypes about black people, how you're afraid of certain black men, and full of instances of ghetto black women (except if they have a white husband, they're okay.)


If racism/discrimination/stereotyping by you against blacks is okay, why isn't it okay for white people to do it? They don't know you--for all they know, you could be one of those loud black women who'll be aggressive to the staff and cause problems, and then skip out on the tip.


The Letter K said...

As for the first anonymous:

I just confirmed what a friend said as a server in Virginia--he, as well as others, would switch tables based on whether or not a black person/group came in.

His reasoning? He heard black people don't tip, or some other BS like that...

And before we get into a whole thing about how black people don't tip---they do. It's just that black people don't tip based on some formula. They tip based on the service a person gives--which, if you're a white person who thinks black people don't tip, is going to be pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm 'first anonymous'. Regarding your comment, I guess everyone's exerience will differ. I just never did. I guess I have heard people say that black people don't tip, too. You can't tell who is going to tip you what. A seasoned server will tell you that the nicest dressed, high-spending tables can stiff you completely, and the best tip of the night can come from someone who looks a mess and barely ordered anything. Have I gotten bad tips (that I didn't deserve) from a black person? Yes. From white/caucasian/hispanic/european, also. [No, I wasn't a bad server, I just waitressed A LOT :)] I also got great tips from black people and everyone else, too.

My point is that I agree that if you go into it with an expectation of what kind of tip you'll get, you will probably get it, good or bad.

Maybe I'm naiive, but I still believe that avioding a black customer is unusual.

Anonymous said...

I think this woman was trying to relate by sharing hair "horror stories" with another woman. This is something YOU know women do. Poor thing - little did she guess her comments would be analysed to death..

Carol Ott said...

I know this is an old post, but the sentence about how white people never have to worry about where they're seated in a restaurant is just crap.

I was actually denied a seat in a restaurant once because I had a small child with me. My son was quiet, well-behaved, and we were told we couldn't sit in the front...we'd have to be relegated to what I call the "stroller ghetto". Um, no thanks.

Then in another restaurant (a few months later) the hostess tried to seat us (again my son was with me) next to the kitchen, next to the bathroom, and then next to the door. I finally had to get a little stern with her and tell her I wanted THAT table...I even had to point. Jeez.

So we get discriminated against, too, when it comes to being seated in restaurants. It's one of the reasons why I own a restaurant...and EVERYONE is welcome.

keep it real said...

I wouldn't stress to much over this sitiation...unless that waiter, or whomever made a big deal about my seating request; which you can do (request a seat)you are a paying customer.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so much concerned about your being seated in the back as whether the server wants to serve you or not. I hate to say this, but when most servers see a black person sit in their section, we hesitate.

It doesn't matter if you're with a white guy, or a group of other black women, most of us don't want to serve you because we are too used to getting screwed over at the tip. It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen and it's not worth our time a lot of the time. We get run like dogs and given 5 bucks on our 100 dollar check, if that.

I wouldn't worry about the area you're seated in, just help to change the stereotype and tip for good service.

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