Monday, September 11, 2006

Racism 101

Sunday September 9th. 4-5 pm hour. It was my turn on the reference desk. The floor manager was working yesterday. He was helping a patron and there was another patron in line waiting to be helped.

I asked the elderly anglo man if he needed help and he told me that he would wait for the manager. I thought that they might be friends, so I just let it go and went about my business.

When the manager finished up the reference interview with the female patron, the man approached him. The manager asked the man if he would kindly refer his question to me because his time at the desk had ended. The elderly man said, "No, I will simply return when you are at the desk again. When will you be at the desk again?" The manager told him that he would not be on the desk again until today. The elderly man then asked, "Will anyone be replacing you?" The manager said, "Yes, a female librarian." The elderly man then asked if he could just direct him to the World War II history section. The manager did, and the elderly man moved in that direction.

The manager turned to me and asked, "Should I have let him know that the librarian relieving me is a white female?"

I answered him by telling him that I had asked the man if I could help him and he turned me down.

The elderly man returned later and asked the other librarian for help. She wasn't able to find what he was looking for and I didn't offer any help whatsoever. I had an idea of what might help him, but he wanted help from someone who looks like him, so I left the situation alone.

The whole time he was at the reference desk, I thought: I hope he finds himself in a situation where the only person who can help him happens to be of African descent.