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Monday, May 2, 2016

Checking my white privilege

David and I now live together which is awesome.  Yes, there is some adjusting to be made.  I haven't lived with anyone who wasn't renting from me as a tenant in almost 17 years.  Still, it's awesome living together and learning about each other.

One of the things I've noticed is that lots of things happen to him that don't happen to me.  I have to chalk it up to race in most cases.  David and I are usually dressed about the same.  When I have a tie, he has a tie, When I'm in my sweats, he's in his sweats, etc.

For those of you who have never spent a lot of time with someone who is from a different race, try it.  Your eyes will be opened.

Before I talk about my experiences with David, I want to talk about an experience that happened two years ago in Cooperstown, NY.  I had been dating someone there who was a local physician.  He was charming and funny.  He wasn't caucasian.  He was from the middle east and fair skinned.  We frequented the opera, local restaurants, and other things in the area.  It was a lot of fun.  He re-introduced me to a restaurant that I loved when I was in college called the Blue Mingo Grill.  We would go there on occasion and get a water side table.  I took lots of friends there.  One weekend, a black male gay friend came with me.  We didn't have a reservation and it was a Saturday night.  We called up and they said they would fit us in.  When we got there, we asked how long for a table on the water.  They said that all of their waterfront tables were booked for at least an hour and we wouldn't be able to sit there.  They would, however, put us at the one side table by the water that is out the back door.  I've sat at this table a few times.  It isn't as nice.  You feel like the help. BUT, it is outside.  In fact, my mom and I sat at that table once.  My friend, Jordan, said he thought it was because he was black that we were at that table.  I didn't even think about it.  I just figured they were telling the truth.

I decided to see if Jordan was right.  I walked back into the restaurant and told them we would wait for a table on the water front.  We were just going to order drinks at the bar and a appetizer.  They said it could be over an hour.  I told them that was fine.  Jordan and I didn't really have other plans that night.  Before our drinks were even finished at the bar, they gave us a table on the water.  There were no other people seated out there.  In five minutes, a family of five was seated next to us.  In 15 minutes, a group of four ladies was seated at one of the other 6 tables out front (maybe there are 5 or 7).  We ate a very, very leisurely dinner with all of the courses.  We were there for more than 90 minutes.  Guess what?  Not one other of the waterfront tables had anyone arrive in 90 minutes.  Hmmm...I was a waiter.  At the finer places I worked, we would figure 45-60 minutes for a table to turn over.  We could usually cycle in 2-3 parties of 2 people in 90 minutes.

I was upset by this, as was Jordan.  Was it because he was black? I had gone with lots of other gay men and never been seated at the back table, so I don't think it was the gay thing?  I decided to email the owner and let him know about what had happened.  I thought he or she would have the courtesy to write back.  They never did.  I haven't gone back, nor will I.

The next day we had dinner at the Otesaga and the experience was the exact opposite.  They treated us like royalty.  Now that's a place that I'll visit over and over again.

Back to Brooklyn, where you'd think that people wouldn't have race issues.  I noticed, and so does David, that whenever we are holding hands in public, people stare at us like we are in a zoo.  I've also noticed in Manhattan and in Brooklyn that each time we go to dinner, I get the check.  Even if David asks for the check, the waiter hands it to me.

Two days ago, in our local bodega, David came with me to get some drinks an sandwiches for us and some friends.  I paid, he grabbed the bags to walk out.  The owner lunged over the table and started yelling at him for taking my bags.  I had to explain that David was with me.

At the grocery store that we visit each week, the cashier asks every time if the stuff on the conveyer belt is all mine since she saw David putting some of it on the belt.  I unload the front of the cart and he unloads the back.  Yes, it is ours...not his or mine.

This weekend in Baltimore, a grocery clerk said the same thing.  I laughed and said, "honey, she thinks that stuff is yours, push it all together."  She blushed and apologized since she said there was a gap in the belt.  Also, at the restaurant, David asked for the check.  The clerk came and gave it to me.
This are just some examples of what I'm sure many people who are not white have to go through.  To always think that a person, regardless of how well dressed they are, isn't the one who is paying, or isn't the one who has money must get old fast.

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