Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Societal Progress

In the past years, I’ve traded e-mails with a pleasant young man who lives in Singapore. He sent me the following YouTube clip, one of John Quinones hidden-camera shows depicting a shop worker refusing to help a young Muslim woman. Of the forty-two people they observed, twenty-two took no action, seven overtly approved of the clerk’s behavior and thirteen people reprimanded the clerk for his actions.

I want to make the point first that I’ve never witnessed any such behavior in my life. If I did, I would have approached the young lady and informed her that her being insulted and refused service was only a bad start of an extraordinarily lucky day because I would be delighted to assist her in suing the clerk and the store. That sort of discriminatory behavior is not just terribly rude. Ever since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is *illegal*. Had I been there, I would have presented her my card and counted the dollar signs.

I once had that experience when I tried to enter a restaurant and was brusquely shooed away, when the proprietor told me, “Japanese only.” I remembered that I was in Japan, and the Japanese can do whatever they like.

Several years ago, the Denny’s restaurant chain was sued for refusing service to black people. They won a huge civil settlement. I’m reminded that sort of behavior was quite common fifty years ago. Today, it is very close to being completely unheard of. I am also reminded of the immortal words of the New York Yankees’ Vic Power. Upon being informed that the restaurant he was sitting in did not serve Negroes, replied, “That’s okay. I don’t eat them.”

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