At Vics last night on the Lower East Side, I was dining with my husband and his cousin who was treating us to dinner when about 15 minutes after we were seated my husband commented that we were the only Black people there.
I told him I suspected he might be right but that I didn’t really want to do the look around and count. I kinda just wanted to be in my bubble with him and cousin S. I can do that. When I’m very comfortable with the people I’m dining with, everyone else literally becomes background. But as the night went on we all began to notice it and my husband and I shared an experience with cousin S that we had at Jacobs Pickles, another spot we love, wherein we noticed we were the only Black people seated in their dining are. But the thing is, they made us feel very welcome, attended to us quickly and warmly and okay, maybe it was our imagination, but it felt like when we walked in they were playing something John Mayer like. After a few minutes it was the best hip-hop and R&B mix ever! We were like yaaaassss!!! We love this! LOL!!
Umm…same thing happened at Vics last night. We had an excellent Black male waiter assigned to our table and all we heard on the stereo was A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Lauryn Hill, etc. I kid you not.
As a Black woman I am very used to being the only Black person or person with other Black people in a space dominated with White identified people. I know where I’m going and why and to that extent I understand why I experience what I experience in the places I choose to go based that. When I walk into a space dominated by White people I usually feel tense and apprehensive right away because lots of white people in one place make me nervous. Crowds and large groups of people are not my favorite period. I like small, intimate groups. But I have learned to be reasonably tense and nervous around White people in large dominant groups. Too much fucked up psychosis, overcompensation for guilt, latent racism, bleeding heart liberalism and more for me to deal with. I am only one Black person! I can’t be responsible for all of your…..feelings.
When we first walked into Vics, Cousin S was at the bar and the dinner space was literally empty. We were the first group to be seated. As the night wore on people poured in and I’m telling you because I looked around, that not a one of these patrons were Black except for us three. So it was easy for me to feel like I was in a protected bubble because we were there first and we were served impeccably. I was very happy with everything. We all were.
If I’m going to be the only Black person with Black friends and family in any restaurant, I completely approve of having the experience tailored for my enjoyment. Yup! Bring me the superb Brown wait staff and play me the greatest rap and hip-hop hits of the decade. I love it. Because I’m in my own world anyway, the same way Whites are in there own world, believing that situations like this never happen even when they witness it right in front of them and then believing when they witness it that it has nothing to do with them.
Now that’s just NYC. In NYC being surrounded by white people is not so intimidating because I can break out to Brooklyn or Harlem or parts of the Bronx if it starts to feel like an intellectual or physical lynching might be brewing. Upstate we have to be more careful. Not a lot of diners playing Common, Tribe and Lauryn up there.