Friday, August 1, 2014

A Brief Rant on Intolerance

Most of you don't know that I have started doing private English as a second Language tutoring in addition to my other work. I just had my last session with a female student around my age who is from Saudi Arabia. Over the course of time that she's been here,  I had the fortune of spending Ramadan with this student, her sister, and her aunt. We got to break her fast together after sunset during our lessons (they make such wonderful food). I have gotten to know this student and her family, and they are some of the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met. This is why when we went to a restaurant before one of our last lessons, I was especially upset at and personally offended by the manager who was so obviously discriminatory. 

My student was just ending her Ramadan fast, and since I once had mentioned my appreciation of Mexican food during a conversation, she told me that she wanted to go out to eat with me at a Mexican restaurant. I looked up a restaurant close to her area, and the only one was in a very posh, homogeneous part of town. This part of town happens to have a lot of old money, and from what I've encountered there, many of the people are entitled and intolerant of others from different backgrounds. I usually steer clear of this area since there's nothing but malls, traffic, and overpriced restaurants (and assholes). If you are familiar with Atlanta, you probably know where I'm talking about...But, I took her to this restaurant anyway (which turned out to be whitewashed, inauthentic Mexican-ish cuisine). 

It was close to dinner time when we got there, and there weren't many people. As soon as we walk in, the manager (I assume this was the manager) had that kind of disingenuous smile that people give when they're uncomfortable. My student was dressed modestly wearing hijab, and I also had my hair covered in a bandanna that day.  He approached us and hesitated to show us to our table. Before he did, he said something like, "Oh, the kebab place is next door. You might like that better." I then told him, "No thank you, we wanted to eat at this restaurant." He was pretty pushy and even came back after we were seated to tell us more about the kebab restaurant! I had to tell him a couple of times, "No, we want to eat here." and "We're here for the tacos." By that point, the manager had already determined that I was foreign too, so he spoke like I was confused or had trouble understanding English (although he may have been subtle, it was obvious to me). Good God!, I thought, Are you kidding me? To add insult to injury, the service was unjustifiably slow even though there were no more than ten people in the entire place, my student's food came out under-cooked, and the restaurant was way overpriced. 

I was really upset at what had happened, but I was also shocked at such intolerance. Sure, there have been people who have looked at me differently or have made comments about my appearance (especially when I used to dress exclusively "Goth"), but it was different than this kind of discrimination. I had just a glimpse of Islamophobia and xenophobia directed at both of us, and it made me incredibly sad for people who have to experience this on a daily basis. Needless to say, the restaurant will be getting a bad review since that's probably the extent of what I can do. 


  1. I'm sorry for your friend that she has to go through this. We do have our share of racism in Sweden as well but we are considered very open minded. Yes, give them a bad review and tell your friends not to go to that place.