Donald Trump’s rise has seen an appalling rise in discrimination and bigotry. One of the most shocking incidents of this happened last weekend in Huntington Beach, California. A Latina woman and her friends sat down for dinner–only to have their waiter tell them that they needed to show proof that they were in this country legally before he served them. Fortunately, the restaurant’s ownership doesn’t have its collective head up its collective rear end, and that waiter has been fired.
On the night of March 11, Brenda Carrillo, her sister Diana, and two of their friends planned to have dinner at Saint Marc, an upscale pub and cafe on the Huntington Beach oceanfront. Brenda and one of their friends arrived early to hold the table. When their waiter arrived, he didn’t ask them if they wanted something to drink or an appetizer. He asked to see their proof of residency. Why? According to Brenda, the waiter said, “I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you.”
Diana and the other friend arrived, and got the same treatment. Diana later told the Los Angeles Times that she initially thought the waiter was trying to flirt with them. When they realized he wasn’t joking, they handed over their IDs–but realized that they had just been the target of some of the most discriminatory treatment in recent memory. They immediately went to the manager, who offered to reseat them to make things right. It wasn’t nearly enough, and they left.
When Diana and Brenda’s mother, Guillermina, heard what had happened, she hit the ceiling. Guillermina came to this country from Mexico 30 years ago, and is a naturalized American citizen who holds down two jobs. She and her husband still speak with noticeable Spanish accents. Her two daughters were born here, and spent two of their high school years at a New Hampshire boarding school. In a colossal understatement, she said that her daughters experienced something that “shouldn’t have happened, not anywhere, not to nobody.”
Minutes later, Diana took to Facebook to let Saint Marc have it.
By Monday, the social media backlash prompted Saint Marc ownership to contact the Carrillos. They offered to give Brenda, Diana, and their friends a VIP experience and donate 10 percent of the weekend proceeds to a charity of their choice. The Carrillos declined, but requested that the donation be made to Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
More importantly, that waiter has been fired. Kent Bearden, the restaurant’s senior director of operations, said that the waiter was “not a new hire,” and had never even been written up before. However, he said, he violated the restaurant’s longstanding policy for how guests are to be treated. His “your papers, please” treatment of these women left them no option but to fire him.
The restaurant also issued a lengthy statement saying that the waiter’s actions were “in no way … representative” of restaurant employees and management, and does not reflect its desire to be part of “the diverse Huntington Beach community.” However, a statement formally apologizing to the Carrillos and announcing the waiter’s firing had been deleted from Facebook and Instagram. According to Bearden, it was because “the circumstances have moved on.” That doesn’t sit well with Diana and Brenda, who openly wondered if Saint Marc was truly sorry.
Diana and Brenda have been well aware for most of their lives that they could potentially experience this kind of treatment. Their mother frequently told them about how she was mocked for not speaking proper English. However, they never expected it to actually happen–and certainly not in 2017. Brenda told the Los Angeles Times that this experience was “an eye-opener” that made her wonder if people think less of them. She is also concerned for other Latinos who may be “too afraid to speak out for themselves” if they had to experience this. Diana told The Washington Post that this incident may have been a product of “who is President.”
As a black man, I know how the Carrillos must have felt. Every time I go out with my girlfriend–a white woman–I always have to be prepared in case we get a knuckledragger server who doesn’t want to serve an interracial couple. The mere fact that this is even an issue in 2017 says a lot about this country–and it isn’t good.
(featured image courtesy Saint-Marc’s Facebook)