When I was running for mayor, a voter tracked me down on Election Day to ask this:
“If you were mayor, would you be willing to make a public statement saying that your administration would not tolerate discrimination?”
“Of course,” I responded. “What else?”
Turned out, that was all.
Yes. The voter explained that other DeKalb mayors had been approached similarly during their tenures, and had refused to make such a statement.
I was astonished at that moment, but in light of recent events it apparently really WAS too much to ask of them.
I’m referring, of course, to the exchange between the general manager of Haru of Japan and a member of the city’s liquor commission.
One member of the Commission asked the GM of the Haru of Japan sushi restaurant (who was at the meeting for liquor license approval) and I am not kidding on this question, “What ethnicity of waitstaff are your [sic] going to hire?”
The GM of Haru of Japan looked shocked. He gave a great answer, “We are going to hire responsible people who want to work and be over 21 if they serve alcohol.”
It actually wasn’t a great answer so much as it was the ONLY answer he could give without potentially getting into trouble with the EEOC. In essence, the liquor commission member was asking the restaurant manager whether he intended to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity. If the manager had said, yes, indeedy, we’re gonna hire Japanese wait staff only, what would have been the response? Would Mr. Embrey have nodded approvingly? We’ll never know, because the employer made it clear he was going to follow the law.
Thank goodness, because I’m sure the city would have run far with such a precedent. It would have meant that I, the bestest busboy in town, could not work in a Japanese-style restaurant because my “inauthenticity” would detract from the cultural ambience. Instead, I would be relegated to laboring at the DeKalb Hofbrauhaus in entwined pigtails and dirndl, serving up platters of rahmschnitzel and potatoes, and belting out “Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen” on the hour despite severe blechmusik allergies.
And if there’s no Hofbrauhaus in DeKalb, then too bad for me.