Most nights I’m comfortably tucked in bed by 9pm with a good book or magazine. But every now and then I go out for a beer with an old or new friend in the evening, just as long as it’s somewhere near my home. And that nearby place for me is a dive bar on 18th Street right off of Chester named “Becky’s”, which has been in the same location for decades.
The watering hole attracts an eclectic clientele — whites and blacks, college students and junior executives with their ties askew — many of whom are digging into the healthy portions of authentic Cleveland bar food: onion rings, tacos, chili, wings, wings and more wings. The wait staff is friendly and knows lots of the regulars by name, by drink, or by food preference.
But alas, I’m going to have to find someplace else to go if Becky’s doesn’t grow up and come into the present century. Here’s what I mean: While the customers are truly an eclectic mix, the staff is universally white — unless you peek into the kitchen or see one of the busboys, who usually happen to be black. So the owner does know that black people exist.
In this day and age, this really is no longer acceptable, even though a number of businesses along St. Clair and Superior Avenues (a lot of them are breakfast and lunch restaurants) still will not hire blacks for “the front of the house” because they are still operating with a mindset from half a century ago. Time was, owners of these establishments were fearful of losing their white customers if they hired blacks to wait tables or tend bar. But things have changed and their customer base is now completely integrated, but their thinking still hasn’t.
Young people today — and a lot of older people too — don’t give a rat’s ass who mixes their drink or serves them their food, but the thinking of the old time owners of these establishments is antiquated and out of touch.
Except for this one reason of racial equity in employment I actually like Becky’s; the dumpiness of the joint reminds me of the beer tavern I was raised in (we lived right upstairs above it) and would hate to quit going there. But my conscience is beginning to bother me. I really thought that if I continued to stop in from time to time things would eventually change, but I can no longer tell myself this falsehood.
Perhaps someone will show the owner of Becky’s this column and it causes them to see the light and come into the modern era. Of course they will probably say that no racism was intended (and it might not have been), but how can you have never hired a person of color — well, once I was in there and one woman looked like she perhaps could have been part Hispanic, maybe — in all of the years the bar has been operating?
Fair is fair; black people are spending their money in Becky’s right along with whites, so why can’t they work there? While I’ve never known there to be a picket line in front of a bar, hey, there’s a first time for everything.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.