Monday, May 01, 2006

Caste System

Yesterday, I went to the Hothouse Cafe's brunch buffet with my friends, May, Holman and Jackson. I've always enjoyed the brunch there. It's bright and sunny and you have fresh waffles and made-to-order omelettes admidst the sounds of a live jazz band.

I was just through my first satisfying plate of sausages, eggs, bacon and mussels, when I noticed something very unsettling. All of the busboys were brown! Of either Indian or Pakistani descent, I can't say for sure. I can say for sure that all the waiters were white. I ranted to Holman a bit about discrimination, and being the calm Aquarius that he is, he started looking around the restaurant for evidence of this fact.

Holman: See look! There's a white guy in a black shirt. He's a busboy too. They're not all brown.

Me: Where? Are you sure?

Jackson: Um, no. I think he works behind the dessert table.

So unfortunately, I was right. Every single waiter in the restaurant was white and every single busboy was brown. And I'm sure this sort of division plays out across the entire restaurant industry. I'm guessing that there are plenty of short order cooks, dishwashers and busboys that are visible minorities. They are always behind the scenes, cleaning up, cooking, essentially being servants. This discrimination plays out in high end restaurants too...except of course in that situation, you can be 90% sure that your waiter will be a man.

I am constantly amazed by the subtle caste system we have here in Canada, and frankly, I find it very disheartening. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, yet this sort of thing still happens. And is in fact, prevalant. And if it can happen here, what is happening in places that are less liberal, less multicultural?? It's a frightening thought.

3 comments:

David said...

WOW...do things like that still really exist? I could've sworn that the caste system was just a thing of the past...

Maybe it's because I live in Tucson. Here, we have like every possible race living under the hot sun and for the most part, we all get along. I mean sure, there's still some tension between some racial groups, but it's not so bad that only certain type of people can be waiters or busboys.

The important thing is...what are you going to do about it?

Furtheron said...

So is this discrimination deliberate or accidental? I say that because it could simply be economic realities. The indigenous population of the rich country are happy to do the well paid, “nice” jobs. Maybe the waiters earn more because of tips etc. However the immigrants are happier to do the lower paid work since in comparison from their experience it is much better.

Recently in Europe the EU has expanded eastwards into some of the old Eastern soviet block countries, Poland, Lithuania etc. I watched a news item the other day on the BBC that showed a community in rural England (Somerset I think) where there has been quite an increase in the immigrant population as Polish people move in to take up jobs in the meat processing and packing industry. The reporter spoke to the owner of a meat plant and he pointed out simply that he cannot recruit local indigenous people as they won’t work for the money he can afford to pay but the Polish view the salaries as very high being as much as 4 times greater than they can earn in Poland. Now many other EU countries (Italy, Germany, France etc.) refuse to relax the rules on immigrant workers for these newly joined countries. Who’s better off? The UK still has lower unemployment than some of the other countries mentioned and a pretty healthy economy although inevitably we are moving from manufacturing to services based. Plus these people will settle, pay taxes, integrate over time and continue to increase the cultural pot that has made Britain what it is after 1000's of years of invasion and assimilation some violent many more however simply economic migration.

I’m not disagreeing with you about the inherent issue – if the discrimination is on colour of skin, race, religion or sexual orientation then I’m in agreement with you. But is it more to do with the ebb and flow of economic migration?

Shellz said...

David - It's not that we don't get along - Torontonians revel in their multiculturality (is that a word?) It's just that when you really examine a situation, things look a little different. Try looking a little closer. In any case, I won't be going back there again, not that it will make any difference, but I'll feel better about it at least!