Friday, June 19, 2009

You need to see my ID?

I was at the Red Derby last night talking to one of the regulars, C, on the patio outside. He was sitting at the table nearest the front door, and I was on the other side. As we were talking, a couple kids walked up and volunteered their IDs to C. C is black.

C politely brushed them off, informing them that he didn't work there. The girl who had first pushed her ID at him, embarrassed, turned to me and asked me the same. After they determined that there was no ID checker at the door (they just check at the bar when it's early) they went inside.

Soon thereafter, another guy did the same thing. After being told by C that he didn't work there, the guy quickly backtracked and said, "Oh, I'm sorry I saw your ID and I thought...". C had an ID badge hanging from his belt for his place of work.

C and I had a chuckle about these incidents and wondered aloud, would that keep happening if we switched spots? Probably. I've had this happen to me before if I've been sitting or standing alone by the door at a bar. C's a pretty big guy, too, which maybe gives him more of a bouncer appeal. On the other hand he was also a lot better dressed than the average bouncer.

We didn't test the theory. But what was funny about this was the reaction that the people had when they found out they'd assumed that a black dude by the door was checking IDs, when he was not.

The first girl immediately found the next closest person, me, and asked me if I worked there. She gets points for a fast recovery. If I ask the white guy next to him, it'll defuse the assumption that I asked him because he was black.

The second guy stuttered out some story about seeing his ID badge. Sorry - fail on that one. Have you ever heard of a bar that issues photo IDs to their staff? I haven't.

Both people quickly came up with a cover for their blunder, with varying degrees of success. This is not a story about racism. It's not about assumptions based on skin color. I'm white and I've had people shove their IDs in my face plenty of times when sitting or standing by the door to a bar.

Rather, it's a story about the mistaken-assumers being so embarrassed by their assumptions, that they tried to cover or explain it. I've never had that happen to me before after telling someone who's presenting me with an ID that I didn't work there.

There's no moral to this story or no judgment about the state of color-blindness in the world (or at least Columbia Heights) today. I think the most we can read into this is that people are actually really sensitive to the appearance of racism in their own actions. Their little foibles were honest mistakes. But their reactions showed that they were acutely aware of how it might have appeared once their mistake was revealed.

I found the image above on a blog called Tasty Booze while googling "bouncers" for this post, and was thrilled to discover it is our very own from the 9:30 club. What an awesome picture.

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