DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) Are upwardly mobile sections of Detroit becoming racist?
Karen Dumas, former chief of communications for Mayor Dave Bing and the city of Detroit, set off a social media firestorm by saying as a black woman she had to wait 30 minutes Tuesday without attention at the tiny Mudgie’s eatery. Mudgie’s is in Corktown, a reviving area of the city with a growing population of young, white professionals. It’s an area officials would like to emulate all over as the city struggles with back-breaking debt, and burned out, mostly abandoned neighborhoods.
Dumas seemed to imply on Facebook her poor service at Mudgie’s was race-related, and hundreds of people weighed in, which led to her appearance Wednesday morning on the Charlie Langton Talk Radio 1270 show.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be singled out for color if it’s never happened to you,” Dumas told Langton.
Dumas said she was the only black person in Mudgie’s and said other people were getting plenty of attention. “I wasn’t sure if it was cafeteria style … I seated myself … But then after I noticed the waitress was tending to (other people) I thought how long is this lady going to walk by me?”
Rev. Charles Williams joined in, saying he’s felt ignored because of his color at trendy eateries in Midtown and downtown. “I’ve seen that happen,” he said, adding, “I think it’s just a cultural competency … There’s a lot of progress going on in Detroit, we just have to be sure Detroiters aren’t left out of it.”
Mudgie’s owner Greg Mudgie responded after a deluge of comments on Dumas’ Facebook page, saying her accusations are “very serious” and adding: “Unfortunately mistakes and bad service can happen on occasion and I always take it very seriously. For that, I sincerely apologize.”
Dumas kicked off the discussion on her Facebook page by writing, “I had the most humiliating experience today as I waited in a Corktown eatery for a business associate, but was blatantly and completely ignored by the waitstaff for nearly 30 minutes while the others were well attended. You want to believe things are both different and better today than they were in times supposedly gone by, but the reality is that they are not. Discrimination is very real, and hurtful for any reason and at every level.”
Among the hundreds of comments that poured in, many said bad service is part of Mudgie’s “schtick,” while others threatened to boycott and many said it was obvious racism.
Steve Bryant wrote: “What especially makes this especially outrageous is that the young whites doing this are just coming back in this City while a lot of of us have stayed here fighting to keep it alive!”
After the avalanche of responses, Dumas wrote: “The response to my earlier post proves one thing: we all need to talk more–openly and respectfully. I shared an unfortunate experience…it wasn’t the first like this, nor will it be the last. I didn’t blame the owner, call for a boycott, say it’s a terrible place, nor do I live in a bubble or expect more than common courtesy or service as any patron anywhere should.
“I do realize that many responders didn’t read the thread (I wasn’t just sitting there; I arrived early and was waiting for someone and I seated myself), there is a blurred line between rudeness and racism, and conclusions are easily jumped to. I usually am not impacted by ignorance (to which I attribute any form of rudeness) but today was insulting. My expectations of being acknowledged and served the same as the other patrons were today were not out-of-line, nor will I apologize for expecting such.”
On Langton’s show, caller Richard in Detroit said Dumas’ claim was nonsense. “I’m so sick of people like Karen … Do you know how many restaurants I walked out of because they didn’t get to me in a timely manner, they didn’t serve me?” he asked. “I’m not on Facebook saying ‘It’s racist, I’m white’ … Give me a break … I’m sick of it. I’ve walked out of so many restaurants … where I sat there for 30 minutes and wasn’t acknowledged and I just talk about the bad service.”
Dumas said anyone who hasn’t experienced it can’t understand the sensitivity it provokes.
“It’s a very real issue that’s not talked about the level we should talk about it .. I think it’s disingenuous to say ‘We have an African American as president, it doesn’t exist anymore.'”
Marty in Westland said he has been profiled many times because of his long hair. “I’ve been in a black restaurant where I didn’t get good service … Obviously this woman is a Democrat.”
Williams chimed in to say, “No one has the right to tell Karen Dumas or myself or anybody else that their experience is not racist.”