Diana Carrillo and her sister and two friends were excited for a fun night out on the town when discrimination reared its ugly head. They sat down at Saint Marc, an upscale restaurant in Huntington Beach, CA, ready to feast on a cheese plate.
What happened next will sound familiar to many immigrants and people of color. The subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, feeling of being "other" pervades many a public outing.
When the waiter appeared, he asked the four Latina women for their proof of residency, as The Washington Post reports. "I need to make sure you’re from here," he said. He didn't clarify what that meant, or why you need to be "from" anywhere to enjoy a cheese plate and a grilled-cheese sandwich with bacon.
The women were confused, but they acquiesced and handed over their IDs. "I looked at my sister and [my friend], and I said, 'Did he really just say that?'" said Carrillo, a 24-year-old business analyst whose parents both immigrated to the U.S.
Both of Carrillo's parents speak with accents, and while Carrillo had not personally encountered discrimination before, they had warned her about these types of aggressions. After all, her mother had been made fun of before for not speaking proper English — a common experience for immigrants that's not often discussed in terms of the personal trauma it can cause.
After they had time to process what had happened, they decided to tell the manager. He offered to reseat them and handed them his business card — but they were already on their way out the door.
Carrillo — understandably furious — posted about the incident on Facebook:
"I hope this employee is reprimanded for his actions. No establishment should tolerate discriminatory actions from their employees," she wrote.
Carrillo told The Washington Post that she wondered whether the employee's behavior was a result of "who is President."
It does make one think: Hate crimes have been on the rise since Trump was elected. The Southern Poverty Law Center found nearly 1,100 "bias-related incidents" in the month after the election, including 125 in California. Last month's heartbreaking news about two Indian immigrants being shot, one fatally, by a white man who questioned whether they were in the U.S. legally, is certainly a sign of the times.
The Post reports that the restaurant fired the waiter, and then offered the women a VIP experience and pledged to donate 10% of the proceeds to an organization of their choice. While they didn't take the free meal, they did ask the establishment to donate the money to Orange County Immigrant Youth United, which advocates for the rights of young undocumented immigrants.
"I don’t know if he had an agenda or not," Kent Bearden, senior director of operations at Saint Marc, told the newspaper. "My concern is he violated a company policy. We’re very specific about how we treat our guests. That individual did not treat a table of guests to the expectations that we set forth in that company policy, and that caused him to be terminated."
The women handled the waiter's ignorance with grace — and the restaurant management did the right thing. But how many of these incidents will need to go viral before people learn to treat every single human with respect?