Will we be welcome? (Jan. 16)


Last Sunday I was watching “Sunday Morning” and one of the features was on the movie “Green Book.” I have not taken the time to see the movie and might be resistant to seeing it due to the subject matter. The movie is actually about a real book, a travel guide for Black people to travel through the Jim Crow south.
I remember those days. I’m talking about the fifties and sixties, the Jim Crow era was supposed to be abolished with the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But there were times when it did not feel like things had really changed. Often before we went somewhere out of our neighborhood my mother would inquire from a trusted source, “will we be welcome?” The “we” meant will Black people be welcome to make a reservation or stay in a particular hotel. I remember a time at Harvey’s Restaurant in Wilkinsburg on Penn Avenue, my mother and I went there to eat and the White waitress was so angry that she had to serve us. When she brought the water to the table—you didn’t have to ask for water back in those days, it was automatic—she slammed the water on the table so hard that the water flew out of the glass onto the table. I can’t remember if we stayed and completed our food. It was such a bad experience.
When I was working for Johnson & Johnson as a sales representative I went to the Boston area for training. My trainer was a young White man around the same age as myself. This was in 1978. I remember when we were going out to dinner it has to be carefully planned because there were places he did not feel comfortable going to with a Black co-worker.
I still have that feeling today when I am not eating at a chain restaurant. Although eating at a chain is not a guarantee. Just look at how many stories have been in the news in the last few years about how Black people have been treated in public places and also at large chain restaurants. We have been asked to leave hotels that we were checked into because we were taking a call in the lobby, we have been asked to pay our bill before the meal has been served, and in some cases we have not been served at all allegedly because we are Black. It is not a good feeling.
I have never had a book to refer to that would tell me if I would be welcome in a certain restaurant or hotel. But in recent months I have asked a few people about some restaurants that I want to visit. In 2019 you would pretty much assume that it would not be a problem. However it seems like things are starting to revert back to a time that I hoped was over.
I am going to see “Green Book,” I’ll let you know my thoughts. Let’s hope the truth has been told about that era.
(Email Debbie at debbienorrell@aol.com.)
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