By Ingrid Ferlo
The most difficult and interesting observation of human behavior, for me, has been to see clashes between race and gender. Honestly, it hurts both ways. I am a woman and I am brown. When they clash, which one takes precedent? Personally, I don’t know. That’s when I know the world is too divided. Yes, I will talk about race and gender. If your are tired of hearing about it, too bad, because these are two of the most important questions of the 21st Century. And by the way we move in rhetorical circles it seems they ain’t going away for a long time. But this is not a story about me.
Recently I was at a restaurant where this clash manifested. There were two waiters attending our table (the restaurant was fancy). One of them was a white girl named Elena, she was wearing a name tag. And the other was a black boy, named Isaac, and I only know his name because I asked him before I left. He was wearing no name tag. You don’t have to be a writer to see the metaphors. As the evening progressed, I should have been attentive to my date but the way Elena and Isaac communicated with each other intrigued me. It was Saturday, the restaurant was packed. The waiters were up and down attending multiple tables. It was obvious there was tension between the two. While Elena was trying to be as composed and smiley as possible, Isaac was obviously disturbed. (I hate that I can see people’s feelings. It’s inconvenient when you are on a date.) In the middle of plates busing in and out of the kitchen, and a live food performance taking place behind me, the clash occurred. Elena and Isaac were standing beside the kitchen door. She was talking to him in an authoritative manner. You could see it in her face, she was pissed off. Isaac was listening to her like a man counting his every breath, his eyes glued to the floor, his chest rising and falling in a calculated manner. And as she talked, her eyes and hands enunciating her tone from far, abruptly, Isaac just walked away leaving Elena reddened and stunned.
As the evening progressed they worked diligently avoiding each other, but Elena was not as smiley as she previously was. Isaac brought out the coffee, surrounded by miniature jugs of milk, sugar and cream. I asked his name thanked him for his service. He smiled, softly. (If I were to make a personal inference of that smile, I’d say it was a deflated smile. One of those that say, too little, too late. But that’s just my personal inference.) As we were about to leave my date, left a tip for the waitress. He is white.
I was remembering this story just now as I was just watching The Daily Show where Trevor Noah was interviewing Tomi Lahren. (Please google her, but don’t listen too long, for your own good.) The moment I see these clashes is the moment when I have to drop all facades of physical manifestations and listen to the content of their characters. Just like Martin Luther King dreamed we some day would.
One day I’ll give a fictitious happy ending to Isaac and Elena, because in stories, at least in stories, that can still happen.