As I sat in the audience of a recent event, the presenter happened to mention that she had travelled out of state recently. She described how she had gone out to dinner and had been required to show her vaccination card in order to be seated inside the establishment. “I was lucky to have remembered to take it with me!” she cheerfully shared.
The scenario she described haunted me for the remainder of the day, sometimes even clouding my ability to concentrate on the presentation. There were many questions I would like to have asked her, questions that I will reveal later, but on that day I was forced to sit silently and reflect. The next morning, as I relayed my experience to a friend, another scene popped into my head.
It was 1985, and I was a newly minted US Army military police officer stationed at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. During our welcome briefing, the officer in charge provided his troops with a list of area businesses that soldiers were not permitted to frequent, because they were still actively discriminating against blacks. To say I was shocked would be a serious understatement. This was the United States of America! It was 1985!
At that time, I was married to my high school sweetheart, who was a member of the Army band, earning extra money by playing part/time gigs during his off time. One weekend, we were out of town – still in Alabama – where my husband (a piano player) was performing with his drummer friend, a black soldier and fellow Army band member. We went out to dinner, the three of us, and we were greeted at the door by the hostess, who seemed to ever-so-slightly hesitate when we asked for a table. The restaurant didn’t seem crowded; there appeared to be quite a few empty tables.
As she gathered three menus, the hostess escorted us to a table. I thought it odd that we were seated far off to one side of the restaurant, the tables all around us vacant. In spite of what I had been told by the officer upon my arrival in Alabama – that segregation was still a thing – I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Was that really why we were being shunned? Set off to one side? Given weird glances? I’ll never know, with 100 percent certainty, but it’s what I suspect.
As I recalled that experience, I asked myself what I would have done if we had been told that my husband and I were acceptable and would be permitted to eat inside the restaurant but our friend, who was black, was not. Would I have stayed? Absolutely not!
What if it wasn’t a friend but rather, simply another black customer waiting in line behind us? Would I have walked in and enjoyed a meal, oblivious to the discrimination that was taking place behind me? Absolutely not!
These are the questions I wanted to ask the presenter that day. What about the patron standing in line behind you who couldn’t get vaccinated because she has a medical condition for which the vaccine is contraindicated? What about the patron who had a negative reaction to the first “dose” and, understandably, doesn’t want to risk a second one, therefore rendering him “not fully vaxxed?” Why did you feel comfortable, lucky even, to be permitted to patronize a restaurant that was blatantly discriminating against an innocent group of people?
It’s the law! Sorry, wrong answer. Lots of laws are unethical. Many have been repealed.
The restaurant owners will get shut down if they don’t obey! Nope, wrong again. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Sometimes good people have to make difficult choices, including business owners.
It’s for the health of the community! No. In fact, the evidence is undeniable – the vaccine does not prevent humans from catching or spreading this virus.
The bottom line is, THIS IS NOT OK! And, the longer that good people keep following bad directives, the more broken our society becomes. It’s time to take a stand. It’s past time.