D and I went to see John Stewart last night, who by the way was absolutely hilarious and really really smart. I won the tickets from a radio station (crazy, right?! I didn't think people actually win that stuff either...)
Anyway, after the show we stopped by a local diner for pie (yum...pie). The place was fairly empty with only 4 other booths occupied. In the booth next to us was an African American man, sitting alone drinking coffee. The rest of the patrons were white. This is important because of what happened next. The server came over to us and asked what we'd like to drink (water) and eat (we didn't know yet). Next she brought over the waters and was ready to take our order. At this point the black man became outraged that she was taking our order first and he'd been siting there for 10 minutes. He got up, yelled at her, and walked out. We sat there dumbfounded because we weren't sure what had actually happened. Quickly we tried to assess the scene. He was there first. He was already drinking coffee which means someone must have asked him what he wanted at least once. Was he asked to order before we came in? We don't know. Probably not according to his reaction but he did have a coffee and a water... Now he, absolutely, without a doubt, thought that we were being served "first" because we were persons of white privilege and became rightfully outraged. D and I had no idea what to make of this. If we were certain this was an example of racism and white privilege we would have without a doubt got up and left ourselves. We don't want to eat in a racist establishment and we would have absolutely made a scene also to help illustrate the point that this behavior is unacceptable. However, we weren't sure if this was an example of racism and white privilege, we don't know if he was asked to order before us, if he had the opportunity to order his food along with his coffee like we had, we had no idea. We spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what really happened and whether we should have left. Thinking back to the moment, we probably should have left. Because whether or not the situation could have been justified as not an example of white privilege, it still probably was.
D had another question: was it racist for us to assume that he was angry about not being served first because of his race? Maybe there was no racial motivation to his anger? Maybe he was just hungry, or angry about being there first and having to wait? He could have been white and had the same reaction, then it wouldn't have been racially charged. But he wasn't white. So was it racist for us to assume that he correlated the situation to racism and white privilege and was outraged by this specifically? Maybe his anger had nothing to do with that, maybe he didn't think the server was racist, maybe he just wanted to order his food like everyone else and didn't associate having to wait with his race? But we did. Because to us, if in fact he was made to wait and we were asked to order first, it was a clear example of white privilege. SO... is it racist that we associated his outrage instantly to thinking he was outraged specifically about racism and not something else?