Too brown for the fancy restaurant.

Jane Medina
Orange, CA

My daughter Annie had just turned 21. So she, my husband, my son, and I put on our cocktail party clothes and went to the fanciest restaurant in Orange, California to buy Annie her first drink. As our car climbed the steep hill where the restaurant sat like a crown above the city, we worried that we wouldn’t be able to get a table next to one of the outdoor fire pits. We were right. All the fire pits were taken by white and Asian couples, so we sat at a little table next to the kitchen, determined to enjoy ourselves. Our determination slowly waned as we waited to be served. All of the parties near us were being served their fancy drinks, talking and laughing with the cocktail waitresses, paying their tabs, and leaving. We asked a passing busboy to speak to a waitress. His eyes darted towards the woman who evidently was supposed to serve us, he mumbled an excuse and hurried away. After an hour, we left, too angry to speak to the manager. We went to a Mexican restaurant at the bottom of the hill and had a wonderful time.

As a white woman married to a Mexican American man, I was used to the uncomfortable glances from people who disapproved of racially mixed couples. But I had seen those glimpses of prejudice decline during our 30 years of marriage. So I was genuinely shocked when we experienced such passive-aggressive bigotry in 2004. I think our society has matured nine years since then, but it is naive to say that prejudice has been eliminated. Perhaps someday all people will consider these subtle acts of prejudice as antiquated and as horrific as slavery. I hope so.


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