Racism at Diva Lounge
Published: Sunday, December 3, 2006
Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 13:08
"If you look at me like that one more time, I'm going to smash your head into that mirror!"
I looked to my right and surprisingly found a middle-aged Caucasian woman staring straight at me. She was angry and muttering profanities. I wondered what I had done to provoke this woman. However, I couldn't come up with a concrete answer. All my friends and I had been discussing was what kind of drinks we were planning to order. Would it be the Peach Passion, or the Apple Martini?
I decided to ignore her violent threats seeing as she was drunk. I knew I had done nothing wrong and therefore believed her attempt at intimidating me was unwarranted. It was Saturday night after all, and I had arrived at Diva Lounge in Davis Square fifteen minutes ago to join my friends for a Saturday night study break.
I had just spent seven hours in Tisch library, preparing for a presentation on Monday. When the all too familiar sound of the recording "the library will be closing in..." I more than gladly packed up my bags, went home to change and shower then headed out on the first Joey into Davis to meet my friends. I refused to let this crazy woman interfere with my relaxation or steal my joy.
My friend Monica was not as forgiving as I was. When I told her what this woman had said to me, Monica decided not to ignore her, and stood up to confront this woman. "What did you say to my friend; is there a problem here?" she asked the woman.
The woman also stood up, and responded "Yes. Do you know who I am? You n--s are in my space. This is my town!" She pointed at her hand trying in insinuate that Somerville is a white town where minorities are not welcome and then continued with "I'm sick of you guys coming into my town and I will not be intimidated by a bunch of n--s."
Everyone sitting at my table gasped, as she was speaking to all of us. There were four South Asians, one Latino, and three black people, including myself, mingling at the table. We were all appalled at what the lady had said. None of us had ever been called "n--s" in this derogatory way. The woman went on to verbally assault Monica, calling her a slut and continuing to call her a "n--."
As I looked around, I no longer felt safe in Diva Lounge. Instead I felt like I was living in the 1950's in the rural south. I'd heard the stories of Emmett Till, and the many other people of color who had been killed because of racially motivated hate crimes. These incidents started in the same manner as the one that was unfolding in front of me. Racial tensions were high as the customer was spewing off unprovoked racial slurs and threatening to use physical violence against us.
Meanwhile, one of our friends went to notify the manager of the
customer's behavior and the
dangerous situation that was arising. The woman, when satisfied with her tirade, went outside to take a phone call. When my friend returned from her conversation with the manager, she assured us that this lady was not going to be allowed to re-enter the lounge.
However, to our astonishment, the woman returned and sat down at her table and, along with her friend, continued to hurl profanities at us.
We once again went to the manager to report this woman's racial harassment, and again demanded that the manager remove her from the premises. The manager then informed us that the patron was her sister, and apologized for making us feel unsafe. Yet she did not make any attempt to remove her sister from the lounge.
We then asked to speak to the owner. To our further shock, he shrugged his shoulders and told us that, "It happens," and that this racial harassment was something we should get used to.
I refuse to believe that being discriminated against in a public establishment is ever something that I should get used to.
To my knowledge, in this country we have made laws against segregation, discrimination, and all are equal citizens. Yet Diva Lounge was acting as if these laws should be thrown out of the window. By asking us to once again sit in the back of the bus and deal with hatred and intolerance made it seem like we really were in the perpetrators "town".
Feeling upset and disrespected, Monica and another friend left the establishment. I returned to the table get my jacket to find that our drinks had arrived. Still disgusted with the situation, I told the bartender we didn't want them. The woman who had attacked us motioned for the bartender to send her our drinks. The bartender gave her the drinks we had ordered, and she and her friend looked straight at me.
"This one is for you." they said, as they held up our drinks to toast to our table. With that, I decided that I had enough. With one of my other friends, we walked out the door.
The four south Asian girls in our party decided that they were not going to be intimidated by the woman or the institution. So, they stayed at Diva Lounge for a while longer. On their way out they were told by the owner, as though an apology, "money is money."
Even if "money is money", Diva Lounge could have collected the woman's check and stopped serving the abusive woman. Yet no effort was made. As the overseers of the establishment, Diva Lounge did not fulfill their promise to remove the individual from the premises as they initially said they would. Instead, the manager allowed a hostile environment to grow and fester. My friends and I, feeling both threatened and degraded, were left to endure the pain inflicted upon us by the racially hostile unpunished perpetrator and her friends. This is not acceptable behavior on the part of the business.
When the proprietors of Diva Lounge say that they care about the safety of their customers, it is clear from their inaction that they do not.
Racism continues to exist and it is accepted and supported right down the street from our campus. Furthermore, it is being used against members of the Tufts student body. As a member of the Tufts community, and on behalf of the individuals who were victimized at Diva Lounge on Nov. 18, I call to all members of the Tufts community to boycott Diva Lounge.