An incident happened a few weeks ago that took me awhile to process emotionally before I could share it here on the show.
In a nutshell: a drunk White guy verbally harassed me so badly at a Brookhaven, Georgia restaurant that I called 911 – thinking it would stop what happened to me. It didn’t.
You’re welcome to stop reading now if you’d prefer to stick your head in the sand about white privilege and the age of Trump-ism.
Saturday, August 13th I looked down at my feet and noticed I was in dire need of a pedicure. I called one of my favorite Atlanta salons, Natural Body Spa Brookhaven, made an appointment for 6 PM that evening and told my husband he’d be on his own for the night with our son. My pedicure was everything that I imagined. It was relaxing and I had a great conversation with the nail technician. I always love going to Natural Body Spa because they treat you like a queen. Any tired parent should go there as a retreat. I left feeling fabulous and beautiful. For the next 20 minutes anyway.
As I walked down the sidewalk of Dresden Drive in Brookhaven I noticed a restaurant that I’ve never been to – Verde Taqueria. I walked in and ordered a margarita to cool off. Once I took a better look at the menu, I decided to order a quesadilla that sounded tasty to-go . I sat at the bar with my drink and tried to enjoy the evening as any Mother on a “night out” would.
But that was short-lived. The bar and waiting area were both packed with lots families and small children. So packed that one couple seated next to me at the bar sat their children on the floor – at their feet. I thought it was weird. It’s something that I would never do, but hey none of the servers or bartenders stopped them and that disregard by the Verde Taqueria staff should’ve been a red flag for what was about to happen to me.
A drunk white guy (I’ll call him “Brent”) and two of his less drunk friends stood next to me and ordered more to drink. Part of Brent’s conversation included the use of the F word. I turned him and said “Hey, there are kids right there. Do you mind not cursing?”
“Brent” gave me a piercing, threatening look like `How dare you speak to me? I can curse where ever and however I please.”
He said the kids shouldn’t be there in the first place. I agreed. Kids don’t belong at a bar. But since they were there, I thought it was reasonable to ask an adult NOT to curse in their presence. How wrong I was.
After a few minutes “Brent” stepped a few feet behind me and continued talking with his friends who tried to get him to leave. “Brent” refused to. Instead, he turned his drunk attention to me – the Black woman sipping a margarita at the bar by herself. Even with my headphones on and the bar TV screens blaring a sports channel I heard “Brent” say:
“I bet you she didn’t even leave a tip.”
A popular stereotype about Black people is that we don’t tip well.
“Why are you still sitting there when you have a to-go order?”
“Look at her taking up the whole bar.”
That may have been an insult about my hips and weight.
“Just leave already!”
I turned and asked him, “Are you serious? Are you in the third grade?”
Brent snarked and responded, “No, I’m in the fourth.”
Clearly he had gone into “jerk mode” with his sights set on me. The harassment wasn’t going to stop.
One bartender asked me what’s wrong. I told him “Brent” was behind me saying rude things. The bartender did nothing and kept making drinks.
“Brent” kept going with the insults. My order arrived. But I still had plenty of margarita left in my glass. Was I supposed to leave to make room for “Brent” and his buddies at the bar? Nope. No way. No how.
I asked to speak to a manager who I told “Brent” was bothering me. I asked, “Can you make him leave?”
“Brent” dug his feet in even deeper and refused to leave. He exchanged words with the restaurant manager, but the manager came back to me and said “Well it’s your word against his he said he didn’t say anything to you.”
So essentially I’m a 43-year-old woman trying to have a peaceful dinner who has nothing else better to do but make up lies about a guy standing next to me verbally harassing me?
Believe me I’ve got way better things to do with my time.
This seemed to motivate “Brent” to keep going. He was doing the kind of third grade harassment where the kid behind you in class calls you names in a volume too low for the teacher to hear (the bartenders couldn’t hear what he was saying either), yet just loud enough to get under your skin.
Keep in mind, there’s a guy sitting next to me eating (“Chuck”) who CAN HEAR me ask “Brent” over and over to leave me alone. “Chuck” did nothing. He kept his eyes glued to his menu. Thanks so friggin’ much for NOT having my back “Chuck.”
I almost whipped out my iPhone to document the fiasco, but knew that would escalate the situation, especially if Brent grabbed my phone. I’m alone and Black in a restaurant in an exclusive Atlanta suburb. I wanted “Brent” away from me without things getting physical.
I asked for the manager for the second time who claimed they were trying to get a table for “Brent” and his buddies.
I asked, “Why do they get to sit down and he’s been bothering me?! You can’t make him leave?”
The manager said: “I can’t make them leave.” So I said I’m calling police.
When they heard this, his friends begged “Brent” to go to another spot to get more drinks. But for the second time “Brent” absolutely refused. By now, anyone near the bar it was obvious something is going on. “Brent” and I are exchanging words loudly. The bartender who overheard me say I was calling police rolled his eyes at me as if to say – “Why is she making such a big deal of it?”
Within five minutes Brookhaven Police Officer Latif and his supervisor arrived to get my side of the story. I pointed the officer in the direction where drunk “Brent” and his buddies were now seated in a booth. Officer Latif talked to them, came back over to me and said “Brent” apologizes.
The officer reminded: “I can’t make them leave. Only management can.”
So here I am feeling like the victim who asked for help over and over – and got NO RELIEF. Why was I expected to LEAVE to escape the harassment instead of the harasser being forced to leave a private business? Come on, now!
As a blogger and journalist, I immediately knew I had to do something. I called the Verde Taqueria Westside location of the restaurant and reported the harassment. Over the next few days I exchanged calls with an owner, Scott. His tone was: “Yeah it happened. It shouldn’t have happened. Here’s your money back.”
I feel like I never received a real, heartfelt apology – that I was right and the staff who did nothing was wrong.
I received a “I’m sorry it happened” which is as heartfelt as telling someone “I’m sorry YOU were offended.”
Even if Scott offered me a gift card to come back to the other location with my husband for dinner, I wouldn’t have accepted it. My experience at Verde Taqueria Brookhaven left a bad taste in my mouth and a disappointing pit in my stomach.
When I knew I’d share this on my blog, I prepared myself for online harassment from people who wouldn’t believe me. Or from people who didn’t think that “Brent” was believed because he’s White and I wasn’t because I’m Black. I don’t want Verde Taqueria staff fired or removed. But I think any establishment that serves alcohol in the age of Trump-ism and diarrhea of the mouth “racist speak” – needs to know when to cut people off from alcohol. Instead, “Brent” and his party were seated and served after my repeated complaints.
Why does it seem to be so hard for people to believe the Black victim of harassment or violence?
Why will people who read this believe I should have just walked away – instead of “Brent” being forced to leave?
Here are a few things I know, for sure:
If I wasn’t dining alone, “Brent” wouldn’t have felt bold enough to keep bothering me.
If anyone sitting near me, like “Chuck” had said “Dude, leave her alone,” it would have ended sooner.
If I had cursed at “Brent” the way he cursed at me, I would have been kicked out and I would have been seen as the “loud Black woman.”
If my Black husband with his big, curly afro had verbally harassed a woman (of any color) to the point where she felt like she needed to call the police at Verde Taqueria – that management would have kicked him out!
So what’s next?
Maybe my story will open your eyes. Maybe you will see a “Brent” out in public and call him out on his crap when his drunk white privilege is raging.
Maybe you’ll be the opposite of “Chuck” and speak up and defend a Black victim.
Without you, there will be more Brock Turner(s) and Ryan Lochte(s) in this world.
Either way, I’m not going back to Verde Taqueria. And I may not go out for a drink and a meal by myself AGAIN.[Tweet “Will you continue to serve abusive drunk patrons @Verdetacos?”]
Update: The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) contacted me via Twitter and said Verde Taqueria is not a member of its organization. “The GRA promotes responsible alcohol service through ServSafe alcohol training for employees and staff. This program prepares restaurants to provide a safe and enjoyable dining experience for all, and teaches employees how to handle difficult situations