Race awareness in excess

A little black dress, red lipstick and new shoes. This Valentine’s Day was going to be special.

My boyfriend and I dined out at P.F. Chang’s. I am from a small town, so the plaza in Kansas City is big time for me.

The evening was gliding along. We had reservations for a late dinner at 9 p.m.

We were seated in a small corner booth along the foggy windows facing the bitter February night.

The lights were low, the aroma of white tea hung in the air. It was a perfect night.

Our booth’s seating was connected by a crimson, cushioned bench that served as a seat for both me and the woman sitting at the neighboring table.

There was just enough space between us to prevent any awkwardness.

Shortly after sitting, the woman answered a phone call. I’m not an eavesdropper, but we were sitting so close it was inevitable.

She was speaking to a friend in the area. They chatted for a few minutes, just long enough to mention the name of the restaurant and hang up.

The words floated in one ear and trailed off through the other as I was having a conversation of my own.

Apparently, the woman had invited her friend and the woman’s boyfriend to cram into the space for two.

The extra people squeezed onto the bench next to me. The guy was so close he was actually touching me.

Now I’m not one to be high maintenance, but I am fond of my personal space and this guy was definitely bursting my bubble.

I glared at my boyfriend with a look that obviously said, “Go tell someone.”

There was just one thing that prevented either one of us from speaking with the hostesses immediately: both the young couples were black.

I am not a racist person, but this situation posed a problem. Should we say something?

Would the couples be offended and think it was solely because they were of a different race?

Would the Asian hostess think we were being discriminatory?

Or did we have a right to say something because despite the ethnic background of the people next to us, it was socially uncomfortable?

Eventually, my boyfriend got up and spoke with the hostesses, who agreed with us that the action was rude and inappropriate.

The couples left while he was up, and it was no longer a problem.

After my boyfriend was seated again, the manager approached our table and apologized for the awkwardness.

He paid for our appetizers. We weren’t looking for free food. We just wanted a respectable amount of space to have a private dinner.

The rest of the evening was fine, and it ended up being a great night. But I am left pondering what happened that evening.

Why was it such a big deal for us to say something?

It wasn’t because the couple was black, but that fact did prevent us from saying something sooner.

I refuse to believe I would judge a person based on skin color, but I’m afraid that’s what happened.

The distinguishing difference was the lack of malice. My actions were influenced in a reversed pattern.

Instead of saying something because they were black, which is what I would consider racism, I said nothing in order to prevent being offensive.

I became so preoccupied with not being racist it prevented me from doing what I would normally do.

I treated the situation differently because of the couple’s skin color.

Is that still being a racist, even if the act wasn’t done in malice? I’d like to think not.