On the eve of July 4, 2020, my husband and I decided to venture to Holland, Michigan, since states were at Level 4. We visited the lovely Windmill restaurant. Later, we had some coffee at the amazing Lemonjello’s and then decided to have lunch at a brewery. 

After being seated and reviewing the menu for the fourth time, I asked the hostess if we could move. We were greeted with a cold shoulder at the empty bar. The bartender took our drinks (never asking if we were ready to order), but there was a show of us being ignored. Eventually, a couple and three separate individuals sat at the bar, while we still waited. I said, as sweetly as I could muster: “Excuse me, we are ready to order.”

As if waiting for me to say something, he yelled a callous and indignant response: “I know, I’ll get to you. I’m going in line, all around to all these people. I’m the only one here.” Expanding his arms, he repeated, “It’s just me back here.” My husband asked for the check and we got in our car, where I broke down in private. I wondered: “What did I do wrong?” and “Why did that happen?” My husband was shocked and the “R” word rose to his lips. I knew this was also a case of implicit bias.

Key signs of this particular racial animus:

We were blatantly ignored.

The bartender never made eye contact with me.

He visited a nearby couple three times before approaching us. 

The stools were 6 feet apart; another white man (the bartender’s friend) moved his chair closer to me, without a mask.

The bartender was polite to my husband and others, calling some “brother” and taking time to chat.

I was the only person of color.

He yelled just at me.

Perhaps the bartender didn’t appreciate serving an interracial couple or was having a bad day. Regardless, he let his emotions explode. One never yells at their customer. Every server/bartender knows that. I did research and asked acquaintances (in similar fields) what their response would’ve been. Each one had similar answers: a respectful “I’ll be right with you.” A colleague named Marcellis listened to my predicament and said, “In no arena should a bartender or server raise their voice … people’s prejudices cloud their judgement.” A sibling of mine went as far as to say, “That’s not how customer service works.”

As a first generation Mexican-American, I am familiar with implicit bias from non-minorities. I’m also familiar with the art of customer service and was disgusted by his lack of etiquette. Some people will deem my emotions sensitive and nitpicky; however, if it’s acceptable to complain about a hair in your meal or a plate being too hot, then yes, I will be “nitpicky” about bigotry. I’d leave you with a yelp review of the meal, but my appetite waned as soon as he spoke to me.


Behmen-Milicevic, A. Server’s Bible: 101 Tips How to Be a Good Restaurant Waiter. Retrieved from https://possector.com/staff/waiter

Cantu-Pawlik, S. (2019, April 1). What is Implicit Bias and Why Should You Care? Retrieved from https://salud-america.org/what-is-implicit-bias-and-why-should-you-care

works in River Forest.

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