I was talking to a farmer friend of ours, and he told me a story. He was encouraging his friend, who is a well respected black artist in Providence, to go eat at my restaurant. This artist's response was that "I don't go to restaurants that don't hire black workers". When this story was told to me, my chest recoiled - just writing this statement does the same thing. I am a mixed raced individual, half Asian (Toison) and half white (Polish and Irish). We have over the years operated a diverse kitchen, with cooks of almost all racial make ups and sexual identities, and it has been something that I've been proud of. But our front of house? Those who are the direct connection between our guests and our food? They have always been white females and males.
It has always been something that has bothered me, but more so frustrated me. I've read and staged nearly every single FOH resume that has come through our door or email inbox, and I can't remember a single person of color applying for a front of house position. This was my excuse. I was frustrated, I didn't understand - but what I've come to realize is that I have also been victim blaming. That our hiring policies, while not actively racist, have been a part of structural racism.
Not having any people of color out on the floor, interacting with guests portrays a image to guests of the kind of people we hire, and in many ways the kind of people that we want to serve. And so when we put out calls to hire people, it makes sense that people of color are not applying - while we are not being overtly racist, we have been inherently racist in not actively making it known that we are an equal opportunity employer who values diversity in the workplace. And for that I am ashamed.
This is my attempt to make progress. At the end of the month we will be hiring additional employees for our new restaurant in the Dean Hotel. I want our restaurant to reflect the complex diversity that makes up our beautiful city. Yes, we will still welcome white applicants, and yes we will still hire based on skill. But I am writing this with the hopes that the Black, Latino, and Asian communities of our city understand that we welcome their applications would love to see the skills that they can bring to our restaurant. If you were ever made to feel awkward in our restaurant in the past because of the lack of racial diversity - fuck I'm sorry. I'll own that I have made mistakes, that I have been lulled into a state of complacency. I will work better to be active in combating the racist systems that pervade our society and especially this industry- especially the subtle ones.