Op-Ed: In a Time Of …

678FEAD0-553B-4661-B373-27EE61EBEF10

White privilege is real, and it has negatively impacted my entire life.

I got to thinking about every single time I’ve applied for a job and how apprehensive I was to include my blog URL. I’ve had to pause every time before I decided, because I knew that by clicking on that blog link I would be opening the door to disclosing my multiracial identity. I was scared that I wouldn’t be considered for the job because the color of my skin. Regardless of the fact that I earned my Bachelors in Communications from an accredited university or my Culinary Arts degree from (arguably) the best culinary school in the country, or even the fact that I’ve held management positions since I was 19 years old. That’s terrifying. I know I’m not alone in my apprehension or fears—how about my brothers and sisters  who have obvious non-white surnames?  But even then, I would still choose to disclose my identity because I want to be true to who I am. And you know what? Nine times out of 10, I didn’t get a call back. That’s disheartening for any BIPOC.

In recent years of recruiting restaurant staff, I can recall some of the résumés I’d receive that included their headshots. The common thread? All white women. What freedom! To not be fearful that they won’t be discarded by showing their face. That their cuteness and whiteness will help get them the job.

And then I started thinking about the previous jobs I did have, and how disproportionately I was paid in comparison to my white counterparts. That the white male dishwasher I once worked with made $4-$5 more than I did as a cook. (Side note: This is not bashing the dishwashing position. I actually started out as a dishwasher at that restaurant and have washed dishes at others. That job is not nor ever has been beneath me. It’s the hardest fucking job in the kitchen. I strongly believe the dishwasher is the most important job in the restaurant. Any respectable line cook or chef will agree.) But I can’t help but think that my lesser pay was directly correlated to my skin color and gender. Or when I worked in a mid-management position and my white female counterpart made $3/hour more than I did. I have no ill will toward any individual who ever made more than me. They are very fortunate. I take issue with those in power, the oppressors, who decided that I was not worth the same amount of pay. Would I have been paid equally if I was white?

As I look to the future of my industry, I can’t help but think of all the restaurants that are permanently closing due to the global pandemic and all the jobs lost, perhaps forever. Unemployment rates are at an unprecedented all-time high. The hospitality and food & beverage industry is deeply impacted—severely in Portland, a city known for its food. What does that mean for all of us? What does that mean for me and my fellow BIPOC? Now we must fiercely compete for those very few and far between jobs. I’m seriously scared. If we couldn’t get the same seat at the table then, how are we to expect or even imagine getting one now?

Here are some resources for further reading.

https://werepair.org/racial-disparity-food-equity-american-restaurant-industry/

https://www.eater.com/2015/10/22/9593482/study-people-of-color-paid-less-white-workers-restaurant-industry-roc

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/22/840276956/minorities-often-work-these-jobs-they-were-among-first-to-go-in-coronavirus-layo

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/22/450863158/the-startling-racial-divide-in-pay-for-restaurant-workers

https://www.motherjones.com/food/2019/05/california-restaurants-race-segregation-wage-gap-disparity-roc-alta-restaurant-group/

https://civileats.com/2020/05/05/people-of-color-are-at-greater-risk-of-covid-19-systemic-racism-in-the-food-system-plays-a-role/