The Pleasures of Waiters and Waitresses of Color
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In the middle of a three-star New York Times review of the dining room at the Modern (which, truth be told, is one of your editor's favorite restaurants in that part of Midtown Manhattan) comes this strange passage:
What a pleasure it is to be waited on at a restaurant by someone who doesn't look like a man of European descent?
Of all the possible criteria by which to judge a restaurant, the skin color of the waitstaff never before really struck me as big determining factor.
Imagine the conversation in the home of some Times reader:
"Honey, where should we go for dinner tonight?"
"How about the Modern? The waitstaff there are so pleasantly swarthy."
If there's racial or sex discrimination in hiring waitstaff at Manhattan restaurants, the Times should do a reported article on it. I'm against such discrimination. But offering critical praise of a restaurant for having non-male, non-European-descent-appearing waiters seems sort of like its own form of racial or sex discrimination. And what does a man "of European descent" look like, anyway. How do you tell someone who looks like a man of European descent from someone who looks like a man of American descent? What about those of us whose families started out in the Middle East and then went to Europe and then came to America? What about deeply tanned Southern Europeans, or blacks who are citizens of Great Britain or of France? Turks?
Do Times critics really want to get into the game of awarding stars to restaurants based on the "pleasure" customers may derive from the racial composition or apparent national origin of the waitstaff?
In my view the more important qualities in a restaurant are how the food tastes and whether the people who work there are efficient and personable. It's not entirely surprising to see the restaurant review column dabbling in racial politics—one recent Times restaurant critic became the national news editor—but it's disappointing.
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