Tag Archives: respect

“They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes…”

“The following blog post is dedicated to my paternal granddad. May he rest in peace.”

Ahh, the kitchen, a place filled with delicious smells, warm feelings and saucy conversation. The kitchen is riddled with memories. It carries the nostalgic, aromas of yesteryear. However, this place wasn’t always as inviting as it seems. This room was often used an area for shunning and marginalization.

The above-referenced line in Langston Hughes’ poem, I, Too, reiterated the historical treatment of African Americans as second-class citizens—a visible invisibility, if you will. In the early days, black men and women in domestic roles were to be seen and not heard. Your respect and obedience were required, but your presence was repulsive. You were there for one purpose and one purpose only—service. Once service was accomplished you were shunned to the kitchen to partake in whatever leftover vittles were left. If there wasn’t anything left, you were thought to simply be grateful that you had a job at all (no matter how laboring, demeaning or exploitive). Carry on; just smile and nod.

During the Jim Crow era, things weren’t much better visiting restaurants. No matter your vocation or your education, if you were a black person in America, there was rarely a “seat at the table” for you. Counter space was limited and tables were specifically reserved for “white” paying-customers only. Meanwhile, blacks were to hang out back near the kitchen, or outside if they wanted any sustenance. I’m reminded of a troubling story that my father once told me about my granddad.

One day, he and my father went to a restaurant. My granddad ordered a meal and waited for his meal to be cooked. Once his food was ready, he picked up his bag of food, and he and my dad went to have a seat. Suddenly the cashier hissed,” You can’t eat in here. You have to go eat outside.” Appalled, my granddad exclaimed, “You mean to tell me, I can’t eat here?!” My granddad became visibly upset.

Obviously, he was a customer like everyone else. There were various tables available, but he and his son were relegated to eating outside. (Actually, no one else was sitting in the restaurant at that time because many had taken their food to go during the busy, lunch hour. So there were PLENTY of seats available.) Infuriated by this demeaning practice and the cashier’s insulting words, my granddad slammed the food down on the counter. He said, “Take the food! I’m not buying.” And my then teenage dad voiced his stamp of approval, “You tell ‘em daddy.”

I admire my granddad for taking a stand. He saw the value in himself, even though others refused to see it. I’m sure he taught my dad a valuable lesson on self-worth. He also taught him,

“If you don’t respect my humanity, then surely you don’t deserve my dollars.”

Today, there needn’t be any visible signs expressing the “us vs. them” mentalities similar to those that were found in segregated facilities. No, now we have the microaggressions that insert themselves into our everyday conversations, keeping the “I-don’t-think-I’m-a-racist” people enslaved to their own implicit biases. We have insults veiled in jest. We have sarcasm hidden under the guise of “I don’t mean to be racist but . . .” Times have changed, but the self-centered and lack of awareness culture has remained.

We must free ourselves from the bounds of prejudice. We must think before we speak, and reflect before we act. We must die to selfishness, so that we can live a life filled with love. Maya Angelou once said, “If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Rise up and LIVE.

Watch Your Cyber Words!

With the rise of social interaction via the net, I wanted to encourage everyone to be more conscious of their “cyber treatment” of others.  Society is currently plagued with issues such as cyber bullying amongst teens.  Adults are posting hurtful messages throughout the comment boxes of blog posts, video uploads, and social media pages.  People are so focused on expressing their opinions that they disregard being compassionate, and they reject the eloquence of respectfully disagreeing with another.

The advances in technology now allow some court cases to be streamed live via the Internet allowing people to post comments throughout a trial.  However, in the controversial and highly-publicized cases, the comments can get really intense. Many of those comments are mixed with hatred.  Although America has come far in our treatment of one another, we still have a long way to go.

The safety net of anonymity in the cyber world has allowed people to be more abrasive and disrespectful while granting them the benefit of remaining hidden.  These comments reflect the concealed bitterness in the hearts of individuals that you wouldn’t likely see expressed in a face-to-face debate on the issues.  Why is it that people tend to be concerned of another person’s feelings only in the presence of a face-to-face interaction?  Being behind a computer screen should not make a person any less deserving of respect.

The stories of people being ridiculed on the Internet are appalling.  These aren’t just online personas involved; these are REAL people.  These people have feelings.  These are people who deserve respect.  It is our responsibility as human beings to build one another up and not tear each other down.  It is our responsibility as adults to show children the proper way to treat an individual.  We need to show our children that words shouldn’t be used to express hate.  There can be beauty and brilliance in our words.  Our words should promote unity and positivity.  Our words should promote respect.

This is not about limiting the expression of an individual.  This is about the common decency that we owe to one another as human beings.  If we’re going to use our cyber words, we should use them kindly and wisely.