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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, January 25, 2013

White or Dark Meat?: My Epiphany at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

           As is often the case on lazy Sunday afternoons following a night of debauchery, my friends and I were looking for a late breakfast to soothe the unpleasantness that consumption of the devil’s tap water has been known to cause. One of my more trustworthy friends assured me that the best hangover cure he had ever experienced was Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, and that we should go there post haste. Thinking of no immediate objection and unable to generate alternative plans through our splitting headaches and slight nausea, our small band of intrepid weekend warriors embarked on a quest for comfort, satisfaction, and of course waffles.
            Upon our arrival, I noticed two things almost immediately. First, there was a large congregation of well-dressed people waiting to be seated, presumably the post-church crowd. Second we were the only white people. The patrons were almost exclusively black. The employees were almost exclusively black. Even the people at the run-down gas station next door were almost exclusively black. I won’t go so far as to say we were the only macadamia nuts in the cookie, but there were certainly no others that we saw, and the place was nearly filled to capacity.
            I will admit with some shame that the sight of so many people unlike me when I was with so few people I knew (three in total, not counting myself) inspired some trepidation. Not because I expected to be shot or robbed. I know the statistics. I’m much more likely to be murdered by a friend over money or romance than by a member of a minority population in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I was nervous because I was entering the territory of the other. I felt like I was crossing barriers established by decades of racial tension reinforced by people not many generations behind me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience more than one involuntary spasm of apprehension at the thought of being given a nasty “we don’t serve your kind here” look, accompanied by a less than subtle cold shoulder. I couldn’t lose the sinking feeling of being somewhere I didn’t belong.
            All my anxiety quickly dissipated as soon as I sat down at the table. The quality of the food silenced any skepticism regarding the odd juxtaposition. Roscoe makes a damn good waffle. When my stomach settled, I had time to see something much more important: no one was giving us a second glance. No one seemed to notice we were there, except the staff, who were all remarkably courteous. Even the enormous, stone-faced security guard at the door seemed amiable, though I’m sure he could become terrifying at a moment’s notice if he chose to. We were treated exactly how restaurant patrons should expect to be treated by any respectable establishment. For me, it was a pleasant surprise. I was so pleased that on my way out, I even went so far as to buy one of their off-brand energy drinks, though, in hindsight, that two dollars might have been better spent on virtually anything else.
            Growing up in Eastern Washington, diversity was something I was about as familiar with as riding elephants.  I had experienced it once, but I was very little, and only remember the uncomfortable parts. When I came to LMU, I was surrounded by people from vastly varied backgrounds completely dissimilar to mine in nearly every significant way. Yet, despite all our differences, I saw something then that I had somehow forgotten on my quest for crispy, syrupy, protein-packed sustenance: people are pretty much the same everywhere. They may have different folkways and mores, but regardless of race or nationality, they still seem to live by the same code of ethics. Unfortunately, people also share the trait of ardent tribalism that dates back to the days before genetics confirmed that we all descend from the same tribe of Homo sapiens who first evolved in southern Africa some 200 thousand years ago. People obsess over ultimately inconsequential differences instead of embracing our much more important commonalities. Regardless of color or creed, we all share the same human experience. I needed a reminder of that, and I got one. It even came with a side of waffles. 



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