The media would often have us to believe that people of color especially Black people like to play the race card and delight in chasing racism 24/7 when in many cases nothing could be further from the truth.
Today I was minding my own business when I saw an exchange that as the mother of a young man of color as well as being the sister and daughter of Black men, gave me pause as I sat and processed what I saw. So rather than stewing, I figured I would practice a little work avoidance and share this scene.
I am a creature of habit, which means Monday mornings after my 9am yoga class, I generally head over to the local bakery and grab a cup of coffee and a muffin. The only difference today was that before I went to the bakery, I stopped over at the local health food store to grab some cod liver oil, elderberry syrup and a chocolate bar and was promptly overcharged by almost $15. Just another rainy Monday.
So after procuring my supplements to stay in good health I go over to the local bakery which is owned by a woman of Asian descent, she is a trained pastry chef and nice enough. The owner and baker is one of those people who tends to know her trade, in this case pastries and is neither too friendly nor unfriendly. This town is small enough that while I can’t call her a friend, I have friends who are friends of hers.
Anyway when I walk in, there is one customer ahead of me, a young attractive woman also of Asian descent, the owner/baker is offering this customer samples of her newest creation, a chocolate-cherry torte that I actually bought a few days ago. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. Once the customer ahead of me is done, the owner takes my order. I get my coffee and muffin then sit down to devour the muffin. But not before exchanging a few pleasantries with the other customer at the coffee station before she heads out.
I am mid-way through my cranberry muffin when I look up and see a young Black man enter. I immediately notice his shoulder length dreadlocks, I admit as a Black woman in a little town like this, I do notice other minorities and I doubt that I am the only one. That’s how I know that Willie Nelson lives in my area and he is a short Black guy!
All jokes aside, I did notice the customer and probably wouldn’t have paid him any further attention if I had not noticed that owner’s demeanor immediately shifted, instead of her usual smile, her smile almost seemed to shift into a scowl and she appeared tense. The young man gave a warm hello and asked if she made a certain type of cake whose name I didn’t catch. Nothing in the young man’s demeanor made me nervous and trust me if he had made me nervous I probably would have hauled ass out.
What happened next is what really caught my attention, after repeating his request back to him, the owner proceeds to explain that it is a rather fancy cake and no, she doesn’t bake it. He then asked if she knew of any other bakeries in the area that might, but not before she asked him if he lived in the area. Apparently the young Black man’s lady friend lives in my town and he had heard of this cake and wanted to surprise his lady love. Well after giving what to me was way too many details, the bakery owner proceeds to tell him that he should probably go to Boston to find this cake. Like I said, I didn’t get the name of the cake so I have no idea how fancy it is, but it struck me as odd that a trained pastry chef couldn’t make the cake nor did she offer him any reasonable substitutes.
I did notice that by the end of the exchange the young man’s demeanor seemed less warm and open as he commented that the owner seemed knowledgeable about cakes and went slumping off. Now for many readers this story probably seems like a non-story but to those of us who have lived with the subtle and not so subtle ways in which racism and bigotry in the US can rear their ugly heads, you know that even so called simple exchanges like this are often rarely as simple as they seem.
In the end, maybe the bakery owner just had to pee really bad, maybe she really can’t bake this so-called fancy cake. However I know that just moments before, the owner had been both warm and welcoming to me and the other customer so to see her shift from a definitely not warm or welcoming stance took me by surprise.
Just another Monday in America.