Front Street

Monday, May 14, 2007

By Gigi

Ladies, are you continuously disrespected in restaurants? Let me share some of my dining experiences with you—because sexism (and possibly racism) is alive and well in the New York City restaurant industry. First, let me say, men are treated better than women, no matter whom is paying the bill (it’s always assumed that the man will pay, even if the woman is actually paying); wine is usually offered for the man to taste as if by virtue of his gender, he knows wines. On one such occasion, a group of my girlfriends arrived together to a trendy restaurant. We were shown the least desirable table. Our assigned funky table was too small for all six of us and we were squeezed together. We requested twice to be moved, but we were rebuffed. We watched as a lone male diner came in and got the big table…he was White and my group consisted of Black and Puerto Rican women…but perhaps I’m paranoid. Let’s continue. Upon finishing our dinner, the girls and I sort of lingered; we talked long after the bill was paid. The waitress walked back and forth throwing caustic glances in our general direction. It was finally time to go, so we left a small tip since we didn’t get the table that we requested and the time it took for her to bring us more bread and such. I excused myself and left for the ladies room; upon my return, one of my friends was arguing with the waitress. As I got closer, the waitress accused us of taking too long, plus we kept asking for hot water for our sodden tea bags and made her lose money because other prospective diners came in and sat in other stations.

She also complained about the tip and said whenever she get a bunch of women, that we never tipped well at all…not like the men anyway!!! So I fixed it for her—I relieved her of the puny tip, leaving her nothing and I pranced out of the restaurant with my girlfriends bringing up the rear. That’s right ladies, speak with your pocketbook!!!

I hated doing that because waitresses don’t get paid enough, and rely on tips to get by…but if you’re in the service industry and you want good tips, you must give good service; and the type of service we received (or not in this case) shouldn’t be ignored or be based on gender or race. I also think that as long as the stereotypes of women making less money is put out there, we’ll always be treated as second-class citizens. Here’s another example: I treated a male friend to dinner as a birthday gift...totally different restaurant. As soon as we checked in, the hostess only made eye contact with him and pretty much ignored me. Once we were seated, she expected him to order for me. Now I was at risk, and on the verge of acting like a nightmare bitch, because this situation came on the heels of the last restaurant incident and I was fed up; when she came back with the check after dinner and dessert, she placed the small tray with the check on it directly in front of my friend…not in the center or off to the side.

But I fixed her right up…I got the last laugh when I reached for the check and placed my American Express black card on it. When she returned with my credit card and lingered for a gratuity, I snapped my purse close with such fury she jumped. She looked at me for the first time that night and saw the seriousness in my brown eyes. I beaconed her to come closer and whispered, “It was pretty much a mistake and narrow-minded of you to assume that my friend here was paying the bill and therefore you disregarded my entire presence; and that’s why you’re not getting a tip.” So my advice to women, if you receive poor service in a restaurant or any service industry that’s driven by gratuity, assert yourself…SPEAK WITH YOUR POCKET BOOK…and further, don’t ever go back either.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

By Gigi

So, finally they’ve said it. The United States of America—or specifically a Federal Appeals Court rejected most claims by slave descendants that they DO NOT deserve reparations from some of the nation’s biggest and wealthiest insurance company’s, banking institutions and transportation company’s. The Appeals Courts stated that ‘yes’, although they recognize the injustices African slaves received upon stepping foot into this country after being dragged in chains away from their homeland, Blacks losing their cultural identity, losing their native language, losing their name and parentage and for the women being systematically raped over and over… that it does not negate the fact that slave descendants have no right or standing to sue for reparations based on injustices suffered by ancestors and that the statute of limitations ran out over 100 years ago.

Well, that’s interesting—since over 100 years ago, Blacks receiving education or simply learning how to read was considered a crime. Hypocritical Bastards!!! My point? Most Blacks didn’t know how to read or to fight for their rights against a power structure that included such institutions like: the newspapers, courts and racist politicians. It seems so unfair even by today’s standards, that other disenfranchised groups: Indigenous Indians, Japanese and Jewish peoples have received some form of compensation or fiduciary discharge for their pain and suffering.

The Indians received land (not as swanky as Manhattan which was stolen from them in the 1600’s) where they built their own reservation, casino partnership or ownership and other forms of gambling establishments, cigarette distribution businesses and they don’t pay any taxes; Japan received money and all kinds of aide to rebuild after Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the US bombed those two cities in retaliation for Japan bombing the Pearl Harbor naval port in Hawaii. Japan also received some form of agreement from the US that the US would buy ANY and EVERYTHING that Japan exports to the US; all of this is due to the US feeling guilty. So Japan started exporting cars, audio and visual equipment, etc. I guess the US doesn’t feel guilty about how African slaves or even their descendants today are still being treated.

The Jewish community received a museum/monument in Washington DC depicting the Holocaust; they received monetary reparations and more…in fact, they’re still getting reparations as I write this. And please, don’t talk about Blacks receiving Affirmative Action, because that’s nothing! Why should Blacks be satisfied for policies correcting the murderous and disparate treatment they’ve received for over 400 years and is still present today? Common decency towards other fellow human beings shouldn’t have to be should be a given. In the meantime, Congress is trying to roll back affirmative action.


By Gigi

Very little love is lost between the African government and the United States issued H-1B visa; the H-1B visa, is a highly coveted stamp in a non-U.S. passport which allows the passport’s owner to enter the United States legally to work—and not just work, your job has to be specialized…something of distinguished merit that the U.S. can benefit from. The H-1B non-immigrant classification allows the bearer to be employed temporarily in a specialized occupation: architecture, engineering, medicine, education, accounting, law, theology, any of the arts…and yes, even a fashion model. And for that, the African countries want to slap a ban on the emigration of these professionals, who are badly needed in its own countries.

It’s bad enough that African doctors and nurses have been immigrating to Britain for years, where it’s easier to get a work permit than in the United States, but the U.S. is the coveted place to come because working conditions and salaries are better. And because of this, Africans who have the means to, will travel to Britain or the U.S. for medical treatment due to inadequate health staff in their own countries. And the fear is that places like: Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and Nigeria will run out of primary health care workers if the health workforce crisis is not immediately addressed. But since the United States is experiencing a shortage of nurses itself, the Senate is seriously considering allowing an unlimited number of medical professionals to come in to work with a new immigration bill that’s pending—this bill will allow undocumented workers to apply for a work visa, pay a $1,000 fine and after six years of working, or six years of schooling for students, they can file for legal permanent resident status.

African officials are up in arms about this; but because of low-wages, dangerous working conditions and scarce medicine and supplies, medical personnel are leaving and as a result will be leaving behind more suffering. But once the U.S. officials lift the cap, which currently allows 500 nurses per year from Africa and other countries to take jobs in the United States, the emigration will become much worst. Solutions to the U.S. nursing shortage shouldn’t come at a cost of African lives. Right now as I type this, there is one doctor and 49 nurses per every 100,000 people in Kenya; the World Health Organization states the ratio should be one health professional per every 5,000 people. The Kenyan government in Africa is planning to hire 3,800 medical personnel by years end to help close the growing gap. Other African countries will likely follow suit. But is this enough?