Discrimination Allowed

Regarding proposed laws allowing religious business owners to discriminate which customers they serve based on their religious beliefs: German businesses were not required to serve anybody when I lived there in the 1970’s.

Most served us without issue and many did so happily, especially when we attempted to speak German. (They loved that!) Most people are good people, and that’s true anywhere you go.

But.

If you were American and the German restaurant owner had had a bad experience with our GI’s or just held a prejudice against Americans, they didn’t have to serve you. They could seat you, take your order, then leave you waiting for food they had no intention of serving to you. This happened to my family twice.

If you had brown skin, they could ignore you or throw you out. If you wore strange clothing, the waitstaff could just pretend you didn’t exist and still serve your friend who wore ordinary clothes.

If you behaved in a way they considered bad, the shop owner could evict you. My brother was thrown out of a tavern by the owner because she believed he was behaving like the Nazi Youth.  (No one hates the Nazi like good Germans hate the Nazi.)

If you were religious and the shop owner not, they didn’t have to sell to you. If you were not religious and they were, same story.

It was individual as well; maybe the shop owner would serve you but the sales assistant decided not to. You’re trying to get catch the sales assistant’s eye but they won’t look at you and they serve people who came in after you. You wait for as long as it takes for the shop owner to finish their transaction and maybe then you get service. Or maybe you watch the sales assistant talk the shop owner out of serving you.

We waited for dinner 4 hours one evening because the cook was happy to prepare our food but the waitress would not serve it. She strung us along, seated us, delayed in taking our order, ignored half our inquiries and other times pretending to ask the kitchen about our food. Our dinner got served to us, cold, when her shift was over.

That restaurant had been in business for over 400 years. They were still in business when we moved back to the USA 3 years later.

You could stand with a crying, hungry toddler in front of the only place in town that sold food and they could turn you away. Perhaps your child crying was why, perhaps it’s because you had brown eyes and they only liked blue-eyed people. They didn’t have to say, and they didn’t have to serve you.

Or maybe it’s not the only place in town, and you can go to store next door, and the next, and the next, until you find one that didn’t take their cue from the fact that all their neighbors refused you.

Basically, if they didn’t like you, you were out of luck. You couldn’t get car parts, beer, haircuts, clothing, light bulbs, pastries, legal assistance, whatever the business owner sold. They didn’t have to declare it or communicate the issue, they didn’t have to do or explain anything.

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