Saturday Racism with my Kids
By Pamela Klier-Weidner
Director of Development and Communications, JCUA
“Would you like a little racism with your sandwich?”
No Dunkin’ Donuts employee ever said anything like that. But it was the clear message I heard during a recent donut run to a DD franchise just west of the Chicago city limits with my daughters Juliette and Charlotte.
As we ordered our breakfast, the store owner offered us a free sandwich for no apparent reason. A lovely gesture. We sat down to eat just as two Caucasian police officers walked in and sat beside us.
A group of African American teenagers walked in and ordered several items. The police officers stared them down.
After the teens received their orders, one of them took a bite of a sandwich that apparently hadn’t been prepared according to the menu. One bite. He went to the owner and said, “This is not the sandwich I ordered.” The owner responded by accusing him of trying to get a free sandwich.
When the teen came back with “I just wanted bacon and not sausage,” the owner began yelling:
“You’re just trying to get a free sandwich!!! Get out of here! Get out of my store!!!”
The scene couldn’t be ignored. “This is an example of racism,” I told my girls. As they watched, I ordered the sandwich that the young man originally wanted and gave it to him.
“I just want you to know that not all people are like him,” I said. He responded politely: “Thank you Ma’am.”
Meanwhile, the friendly neighborhood cops asked if I was being “bothered.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m bothered by the obvious racism I have witnessed in this establishment.” The officers then left.
This little donut shop drama that brought racism center-stage for my impressionable kids was sickening. I pray for the ability to raise them as people who will understand and embrace real equality.
All too often we close our eyes to racism. But its blatant appearance in a Chicago suburb gave a rancid taste to what should have been a sweet treat.
As we have been doing since 1964, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs — where I am director of development and communications — has been fighting incidents of racism and anti-Semitism, large and small. With the help of our financial supporters and committed volunteers, JCUA will continue this work.
And I will continue to buy bacon and egg sandwiches for as long as I need to.