Unraveling an Unequal Night in Boston

In a charming North End Italian café, DLV and I encountered an odd closing time scenario. The white presenting waitress told us that the cafe was closing in 10 minutes on our arrival, but when a white couple entered roughly 6 or 7 minutes later, she mentioned that the cafe would be closing in 15 minutes within our clear earshot.

Amid Boston’s historic charm, I noted the waitress, seemingly “ethnic white,” spoke Spanish (until that moment I hadn’t assumed Hispanic but rather Italian), which somehow dissuaded me from leaving a review as this lent an additional complexity to the matter.

Upon deeper reflection on the encounter, it became apparent that the white adjacent waitress was navigating her internalized racial preferences, manifested in a slightly delayed service (though I did not skimp on the tip). In the diverse context of Boston, where overall demographics show 44% white, certain historic neighborhoods like the North End and Beacon Hill exceed 90% white, revealing profound and unspoken hierarchies.

This incident sparks an intriguing discussion on privilege and its intersection with race. I chose not to make a fuss or challenge the matter, a decision that might have differed in a high-end restaurant in central London, where such disparities would have been much more conspicuous. I observe that the restaurant and hospitality industry in the United States resembles a glass of beer, with white supervisors overseeing teams predominantly comprised of black and brown individuals, so it’s not as straightforward to challenge.

Racial microaggressions (immediately post the pandemic was terrible as hospitality staff were just annoyed to be back at work) within the British restaurant industry have notably diminished as South Asian students are becoming a large part of the workforce. These individuals demonstrate an immediate understanding of how to navigate Desi clientele, although I cannot speak to their interactions with other demographic groups of customers.

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Mitchell Porter
Mitchell Porter
2 months ago

Maybe closing time was pushed back because there were more customers?!

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