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Racism masquerades as Etiquette

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Several years ago, a friend and I were invited out to Thanksgiving dinner by a father and son. Both the Father (in his seventies) and the Son (in his late thirties) were members of the country club for which they had made reservations for Thanksgiving dinner.

I noticed, as always at this club, a sea of festively clad white faces. Yet tonight, there was one African American woman seated at a large and celebratory table. She rocked a bright pink, matching velour jacket, slacks and hat. She was having a marvelous time with her table.

The Son, after ordering his scotch, summoned the maître d’ and insisted he to go over to the large table and tell the woman to take off her hat. After all, he rationalized, one should not be wearing a hat at the dinner table.

The maître d’ delivered the message to the woman. I watched. She was puzzled, embarrassed, and the adults at her table were visibly upset. She took her hat off and tried, as one would, to adjust her hair so it wouldn’t look like “hat hair”, which it did. She was even more embarrassed. I watched as the woman to her left tried to shift focus around the table. And then our waiter appeared and asked if we would like to order.

At that point, I wasn’t very hungry. I excused myself and went to the ladies’ room. There, I met a woman from the table across the room.

I said, “hello” and asked how her Thanksgiving was. She responded that it had been going very well until someone decided to humiliate her housekeeper and ask her to remove her hat.

I teared up and so did she as told her that it was one of the men who had asked us to dinner. She asked me what possible motive he could have had for embarrassing her friend. And I told her he was a racist and that he knew the woman in the pink suit was not a member and didn’t like her sitting at a table at his restricted country club.

It was as simple as that.

The Father is now dead and I don’t speak to the son anymore.

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