So for anyone who has not had the misfortune of being racially profiled, I thought I might describe to you an experience I recently had with it. Last Friday, my coworkers and I decided to have a business lunch at a restaurant called Max’s Diner and Bar in Oakland’s Citi Center. Very nice atmosphere, somewhat upscale. At that time of day it was not very crowded so we were sat immediately. I excused myself and made my way towards the restroom and once I got there, I realized the bathroom door was locked. So I looked for a waiter or waitress and quickly came across two women who were obviously employees of the restaurant: one wore the uniform of the wait staff, the other was in plainclothes but gave off the vibe of a manager.
So I ask, “Can I use the restroom? I noticed that the door was locked.” The lady in plainclothes looked at me and said in a very unwelcome tone, “The bathroom is for customers only.” ‘WTF?? Soooo…. if I’m not a customer, then what exactly am I?? Now, at this point I paused cuz she really did catch me off guard! I felt myself frown as I glanced at the other lady before bringing my gaze back to the woman who just assumed I was not a customer. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!!’ -is what went through my mind at that moment and I know good and well she read that on my face because I wasn’t even trying to control that expression. I’m looking at this white woman who is looking at me, and I’m thinking I’m really not in the mood for this right now.
So she starts to ask me where am I seated, (yes she actually got those words out of her mouth) when something on my face made her stop and begin to explain that they get 25 people per day that walk in off the street asking to use the bathroom. Ohhh… I see. I guess that was meant to make me feel better– cuz now I know that apparently I look like I just walked in off the street as opposed to someone who would frequent a restaurant! Smdh.
“Can you unlock the bathroom door or do I need to leave this restaurant?” I ask, because frankly that is what I need to know, cuz as much as I like chopping it up with racist a** folks who tell me that I look like I just walked in off the street, I do actually have to use the bathroom!
So her response to my question was to dig into her pocket and get out a set of keys and as she heads for the bathroom, she begins repeating herself, telling me again about her statistics on how many folks walk in off the street asking to use the bathroom. And I choose to say nothing else to her because at this point I want to just use the bathroom in peace and get back to the table so I can relay this interesting experience to my fellow coworkers.
Now, as I head back to the table I have the pleasure of walking past her again, so this time I ask her if she’s the mgr, which she replied yes. Smh. Damn shame. So as the manager, she took one look at me, brown skinned black woman with locs and in her mind she immediately labeled me in a negative way. Why did she assume I wasn’t a customer? Do I happen to fit the profile of the folks who walk in off the street? Is this the level of customer service that she gives all black folks or did I just catch her on a bad day?
The sad fact is here we are, in 2015, in downtown Oakland mind you, and still the ignorant mindset of some white folks remain in tact. And to be honest, I don’t see their mindsets changing. So, as much as I would love to leave you all with some uplifting words of how to enact change, I think I just want to leave you with a few words of caution: if you’re a black woman with locs you might want to think twice before frequenting Max’s restaurant and whatever you do, don’t ask to use the bathroom. Just sayin…