What’s the only thing worse than discrimination? How about discrimination topped with self-discrimination?
Hitting various news outlets today is a report that Cesar Ramirez, head chef of the swank Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, openly discriminated against Asian patrons, routinely referring to them as “shit people,” according to ex-server Emi Howard in a lawsuit.
Ramirez allegedly instructed his staff to serve Asian customers inferior scraps of meat at his three-Michelin star French-Asian eatery, and forbade Asians from being seated near him at the center kitchen counter.
According to the lawsuit, Ramirez once flew into a rage when Howard accidentally seated a patron of Asian descent too close to him, subjecting the waitress to “a wild verbal tirade.”
From then on, the chef allegedly took control of restaurant seating to “ensure that no Asians be sat next to his place.”
Troubling as this all is, the real kicker comes from this tiny little revelation: Emi Howard, the ex-server, is herself Asian.
How is this even possible?
A head chef has racist inclinations, and a member of his own staff, herself Asian, appears to have acted as his enabler.
Should we feel some relief that Howard is among a group of four ex-staffers who have filed the suit against Ramirez? Should we give her a pass, now that she’s finally opened her eyes, experienced an epiphany, and decided to champion the rights of fellow Asian diners?
Many of the details of this case remain unclear, but it seems plausible that this entire lawsuit was, in actuality, brought on by accusations that Howard and her colleagues were being stiffed on tips and overtime pay. Indeed, the lawsuit is seeking “unspecified back pay and damages.”
So, it’s entirely possible that these accusations of racism are only a side note to what actually provoked the lawsuit in the first place: lost wages.
Many questions about this situation remain, including the most obvious one: How long did Howard work at Chef’s Table? Did she storm out of work at the first sign of discrimination? Or did she tolerate it, allowing it to fester, or even worse, abet it?
From what is suggested in various articles about this case, I don’t feel very hopeful about the motives of the accusers or the accused. This entire situation reeks like spoiled meat, and the truth, should it ever come to light, might just be too painful to swallow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leeland Lee has previously written about Asians on OKCupid.com