Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Burying Alleged Discrimination at The Tombs

This past Tuesday, as I came into work at The Tombs, the staff was buzzing about an article in that day’s issue of THE HOYA (“Tombs `Service’ Unacceptable,” The Hoya, April 26, 2005, A3). As I read the article, I was shocked to find that the author, Sumeet Singh Mitter, felt discriminated against by some of the people I have worked with side by side for the past two years. The prospect of my colleagues mistreating a customer on the basis of their ethnicity was deeply disturbing to me.

After speaking with various witnesses and rereading the article several times, however, I am convinced that this incident of supposed discrimination has been blown completely out of proportion. I very much sympathize with the hardships that many innocent Islamic and Sikh men and women have had to face in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. It must be a horrible experience to be viewed with suspicion by some based on one’s physical attributes. In this case, however, it appears that the alleged victim far too quickly attributed the actions of the Tombs’ staff to racism. In reality, there exists a far more logical explanation for that day’s events.

According to Mitter, the “discrimination” occurred as he and his brother attempted to use the ATM located in the lobby of the Tombs. The two came in and noticed a “waiter,” who was in reality the host, “staring them down.” The job of a host is to simply wait near the entrance in order to greet and seat customers. The fact that a host was standing near the entrance looking at people who walked through the door is not surprising.

Mitter then says that he left with his brother because he had forgotten his ATM card. They returned soon after, only to find that the host was once again looking at them with a “very un-cordial expression.” The next sentence states, “I continued to watch him and notice him motion for someone else to come over.” What Mitter fails to mention was that he and his brother had been standing at the ATM for approximately 20 minutes by the time the host motioned for a manager.

As the manager approached the pair he asked if there was a problem and offered help. As an employee I know that our ATM frequently runs out of money or malfunctions. An offer of help was not unwarranted, particularly after 20 minutes. Mitter states, “No one needs help with an ATM. PIN codes are private. The waiter and manager had a problem with someone of my brother’s appearance using the ATM.” That seems like quite a jump to make from an offer of help and an “un-cordial expression.”

I think most people will agree that interpretations of a “stare” and “un-cordial expression” are not concrete grounds for accusing discrimination, yet Mitter later asked that the host apologize for discriminating against him. He relates what a waiter said to him when he asked for the host to come apologize: “It’s not going to happen. You misunderstood – sometimes there are problems with the ATM.” By Mitter’s own admission, this was the explanation provided for why his brother was approached after 20 minutes of fumbling with different cards and seemingly having issues withdrawing money. I too would probably take issue with apologizing to someone who accused me of being a racist without just cause.

The Tombs caters to people of all different ethnicities and faiths on a daily basis. To think that members of the staff harbor and express bigoted ideas based solely on the scenario described above seems illogical when one considers the diverse nature of the Tombs’ customer base. If Tombs staff members were to “glare” at and “mildly interrogate” our minority customers for no reason as Mitter has claimed, then the restaurant would very quickly be out of business.

Mitter’s claims are based solely on hasty conclusions and subjective interpretations. Before rushing off to protest and writing articles which condemn my friends and co-workers, I would have expected some concrete evidence. I consider this situation a sad indication of how expectant some Sikhs and Muslims have become to experience discrimination in their daily lives. It reflects badly on our nation as a whole when some of its residents live in a constant fear of hate. Discrimination of any kind is clearly wrong, but leveling a claim of discrimination against someone without just cause is equally wrong.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of Clyde’s Corporation, or the management and staff of the Tombs.

Stephen Bloom is a sophomore in the College.

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