Husband and I were having breakfast at a little cafe close to home this morning. The tables are very close together, as there isn't much seating area. We managed to arrive just before the "after church rush", and we were seated at a four top table. Nice!
An elderly black couple came in behind us, and they were seated at the 4 place table next to us. The only African Americans in the place. No big deal, right? Dressed in Sunday clothes, I speculated that this was their after church ritual, like everyone else there. As my husband was quietly reading the paper I overheard their conversation. You can't help but hear others when the tables are so tightly packed. He mentioned marching with MLK (and he said, "MLK", not King), perhaps talking about it in light of current events, so I guessed that put him in the 75-85 age category. His wife smiled and nodded. It is always interesting, to me, to hear about events from that era, and reflect on civil rights struggles, especially just after yesterday's large marches.
Suddenly a large (white) church group came in to the cafe, and they were told they had to wait for tables. The black man I referred to was facing them, not more than 8 feet from some of the people who had to wait. He said to his (presumed) wife, "There's white people who need tables. We should leave." I was floored. No, no no! I thought. They had already ordered, but food had not arrived yet. Wife got up and talked to a staff person.
They came back to the table and put on jackets to leave. I said, "No, please stay. Sit with us. We have two empty places for you next to us." She smiled, and said, "The ADT alarm went off at our house. We have to leave."
This was a convenient lie. They had no cell phones, had taken no calls. That ADT thing never happened. But I suppose the deal was done. She had told the wait staff the same "white" lie.
I couldn't stop thinking about this incident on the way home. I realize that black people of that age were conditioned to give way to whites in these situations, but I had never seen it happen before, and I'm still saddened by it.
We have a long way to go. For some people, apparently, it's never over.