While driving by Silicon Valley today, I noticed a sign at an under-construction Lee’s Sandwiches. I was looking for a place to eat, and took a picture of what I saw [below].
It reminded me of all the times I applied for work at different restaurants when I was young [about a 100 years ago], and how many times I got the job, and many times I didn’t. Somehow I remembered the Abercrombie & Fitch lawsuit, in which the giant clothing retailer was found to have business practices that were deemed “unethical” and supporting discrimination against different minorities in the country, and also against women applicants. Discrimination against the minority does keep happening throughout the country, there is no doubt about that. However, there is one thing that many people don’t notice; discrimination originating not only from the majority, but also from the minority.
There are many restaurants, regardless of their background or ethnicity of the owners, or even the restaurant type, that offer jobs to and employ everyone who is qualified because of their skills. In this short article, I am going to talk about those restaurants in the minority areas that do not wish to employ those people who are from different ethnicity, or are of a different gender than the dominant gender in the society [you can imagine which gender is which]. I remembered how people were really hyped up last year when the issue about Abercrombie & Fitch was in the mainstream news. Similarly, Walmart has been targeted for years for discriminating against women job applicants and workers. However, I don’t remember seeing anywhere in the news about what happens to applicants who, being either from the minority or the majority communities, apply at a place that is owned by a minority community member. For example, have you ever seen an American guy working at a Japanese restaurant? Or have you ever seen any African American working at a Chinese restaurant? In the example above, I have never seen any other ethnicity, other than Vietnamese people, working at Lee’s Sandwiches.
While these cases may not be obvious at first, I’m surprised that people haven’t sued these small chains for discriminating others also. You can try this yourself; go to a restaurant or a food chain, or even a grocery store, that is accepting applications in a minority area which you don’t belong to [technically], and try applying. When your face looks different from everyone else around you, including the workers, you can see the small surprise in the face of the employer to whom you hand over your job application to. I once applied at a Japanese restaurant in Tustin, as a waiter, when I was still young. The closest I got to the job at that place was when I had the job application in my hand, and when I handed it over to one of the amazed employees. I never got any call, and the position was filled up after a month of being open by a native Japanese citizen. How many of you have been to a boba place in America and seen someone who doesn’t fit the typical stereotype working there? Have you ever succeeded in getting a job there if you don’t fall into that stereotype? How about a Del Taco; how would you react if the place was filled, in Southern California, with all Caucasian Americans and not Hispanic-origin people?
The only non-stereotypical person I see at most of the boba places are Mexicans, who work in the back making and cleaning the boba. They never come to the front; the front is reserved for different kind of people. Similarly, have you ever counted the number of female waitresses working at a Japanese restaurant, and the number of male waiters at the same restaurant? Figure out the ratio, and find out the same ratio at different Japanese restaurants, specially those that are open till night and have bars that attract males. You will be surprised at the closeness of those ratios. Same is the case with many different ethnic restaurants in different situations and scenarios. Not all places are like this; I worked, while I was in school and during the early years of college, at a few Chinese restaurants, and while I didn’t stay there for long, the owners of those places at that time simply didn’t care if I was from Mars or from hell, as long as I gave the customers what they wanted. They treated me normally, and I treated them normally.
However, it is getting harder and harder to see diversity among the minority establishments. While such a theme may be called valid and as “offsetting” the entire balance as there are less minority workers than majority and thus they should be preferred, this whole system of “preference” is discrimination to me in many cases, as not preferring someone for a job or any other benefit, while that person has done no wrong but is being categorized into the “stereotypical” practices of the few of the majority, is discrimination against that individual. Language is sometimes used as a scapegoat to eliminate someone from a job opportunity. Language should not be a barrier. In North America, for example, English should be only required in jobs at public places that don’t depend on language. Restaurants shouldn’t depend on languages, but places like translation services should. So, a restaurant that has customers that speak different languages, should hire both types of people; those who speak only English, and those who speak another language in addition to English, so that when someone is needed to speak a foreign language to a customer who doesn’t speak English, the one who speaks that other language can be assigned to that customer.
These small situations of discrimination, which lead to filtering out anyone who doesn’t look a certain way, should be kept in mind when dealing with discrimination on any level by the majority, in any country. We have to be an example of what we want others to be; a society is a machine, aiming to be an ideal society where everyone is equal regardless of where they are from. All the parts of the machine have to work together. This requires a friction-less mechanism; discrimination is the friction here, which keeps slowing down this machine. We are not an ideal society today; we are far from such a thing. Focusing on the fast food and restaurant industry alone, we have many restaurants with two kinds of menus; one for a certain language, and another for the mainstream majority language speakers. This is discrimination, as both menus have the exact same pricing but many different items that are not available to both of the language speakers.
While we may point out the invisibility of diversity at places like Ruby’s, we often don’t look for such trends at places that are not so glamorous. We have many bakeries throughout the country, located in minority areas, which only offer signs in a specific language other than what the majority speaks, so that anyone who speaks the main majority language has a hard time adjusting and finding out the prices, let alone order anything. How can we call a huge corporation a “racist” organization and label it as being “white”, when we ourselves don’t let any other ethnicity join our local banks [like banks aimed at Vietnamese population only in major cities in California], restaurants, small coffee and boba shops, and other places? We should allow everyone to come in and participate. Whether one is black, brown, yellow, pink, purple, orange, or blue, it doesn’t matter; we’re all red inside, and that is what makes us all the same. Once we ourselves, no matter which country or galaxy we’re from, treat others equally, we can expect to have the right to be treated equally also. Only then can we actually look at everyone else as a human being, and not as someone from a different community. I am also a human being, just like everyone else; if I am wrong in something I said, or I may be judging something incorrectly because of some incorrect information, please let me know.