An Open Letter To The Only Other White Person At This Minority-Owned Restaurant
I see you. We made eye contact. It’s not a big deal. So what if I’m no longer the only white person at this restaurant? So what if I’ve been tweeting to my 90 followers that I was? It’s not like your presence is making me a liar. It’s not like your presence makes the food taste less authentic, like I’m now at some sort of ethnic Applebee’s. No it’s fine.
Actually, you know what, it’s not. This minority-owned restaurant ain’t big enough for the both of us. So you need to pick up your tote bag full of Amy’s Cheddar Bunnies and Pamplemousse LaCroix, and go the hell back to Pizza Ranch.
You see, they need me here, not you. I’m white enough to maintain the “hype” in the local weekly paper without my whiteness overwhelming the authenticity, for white people. It’s a delicate calculus, and my sole presence is central to the equation.
You probably think you’re so cool. I bet you came here because you read about it. Wow. Ever heard of something called oral traditions?
You probably can’t wait to tell everybody about this new place you “discovered.” That is so problematic to frame it that way, like a discovery. Also, like your discovery. You think you are Columbus, but I’m Leif Erickson, and I made you break our eye contact to show you that this is my land. Don’t you dare engage in light banter with my waiter. Don’t you dare order my #17.
Yea, that’s right. I can’t pronounce the dish I’ve ordered nine times. Yes, I have no idea what I’m eating or where this food is from. I don’t even recognize the flags in here. But the experience is not knowing, noob.
I bet you want a bunch of substitutions and will ask to make it “less spicy.” Me, I don’t need any special accommodations. I have no preferences. I am a fly on the wall. I will eat what a fly eats. I am a collector of cultures, not a consumer. Me renting my apartment and displacing people of color in a neighborhood, that’s me being an observer of gentrification, not a conduit. Arguably, because my taste is so culturally sophisticated, I am not white at all. Because that’s how that works.
But your presence reminds me of my race that I had successfully left behind. So, as they say in Xhosa, sala kakuhle, which means goodbye.
Saving this restaurant is so satisfying for me because I actually can’t stand the food. Oh, what’s that? You like this restaurant because you “like good food at an affordable price”? You jejune bumpkin. You know why I go to restaurants? To prove to the world that I am devoting myself to authenticity. To serve myself--and everybody I encounter--a heaping dose of REALITY.
I guess we’d both just as rather prefer we didn’t see each other. The polite thing is to avert your glance, which I refuse to do, you motherf-- Oh my god. Tim? Is that you? Tim! I haven’t seen you since high school. Tim! How you been?