The Other Sweet Tea

I’ve lived in a lot of places throughout my life, and by far the strangest place of all has got to be the south.

That place goes out of its way to be out of the way. I mean, there are places I’ve lived that I prefer over others, but I could at least call each one of them home for the most part. Not the south. I’ve never been somewhere where I felt like such an alien. Not to mention, I was reminded constantly by the natives of how much I didn’t belong. Usually in the form of being called a witch due to my affinity for wearing beanies in the middle of summer and my obviously Satan-inspired aspirations of being anything other than a housewife at 18.

I’m kidding, but I’m not exaggerating all that much, sadly.

Oh and the racism. I’ve mainly been raised in Florida, Philadelphia and Southern California, so I’ve had a very limited concept of legitimate racism.

My understanding of racism growing up: twas a thing, twas bad, but then Martin Luther King, and BAM! racism over

I mean sure, I knew it was still prevalent, but I never had an experience of overcoming racism. Maybe just ignorance, but not actual hate. But then I was dragged to Georgia for a year and a half.

My grandfather is from Albany. No, not New York. The much sadder Albany. The one in Georgia. If you want to go back in time to a sorry part of American history, take a trip to Albany. It’s the place where the Civil Rights Movement came, and failedAnd it shows, half a century later. I could use a few posts to share my experiences, but I’ll just focus on one for this entry.

When I was down there, I worked at this hibachi restaurant in town. I was given a table, and it was a group of about ten middle aged to older white men and women with very pronounced southern accents. I introduce myself and ask what they would like to drink. I go down the line taking their orders, like whatever, everyday stuff. Until I get to this one guy.

“And what can I get for you, sir?”

“Ehh, I…I really don’t know. See, I want sweet tea, but I dunno. I like my tea real sweet, y’kno? Tell me, is your tea nigger sweet?

“……….I’m sorry?”

“Like is it nigger sweet? Or did some white girl make it? I like my tea real sweet.”

“Well, I’m not sure what that means, but…I can get you a glass, and if you don’t like it, how about I get you something else?”

“Well that sounds great, thank ya, you’re such a doll!”

Yeah sooooo…that happened. Nigger sweet. Is that a term you’ve ever heard of? To this day I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing! Did he want nigger sweet tea? Was the tea in fact nigger sweet? He didn’t send it back! Does he ask every food establishment this question? Why did he think it was okay to ask me that? Does he not view me as black? Or GASP! DID HE THINK I WOULD KNOW PERSONALLY IF IT WERE NIGGER SWEET??? So many questions. And I don’t think they’ll ever be answered.

I told my family and got mixed responses. Personally, I found it shocking, but also amusing. I mean, I can’t say it was harmless, but it wasn’t overt hate, and I wasn’t a victim of a hate crime. They tipped me reasonably, I’m not mad at them. My uncles were just impressed at how I responded. I apparently handled it really well. I don’t know. The way I see it, if you’re that comfortable to go out in public and say something off the wall like that, and not expect to be reprimanded, then you obviously don’t see the error of your ways. And since it’s so engrained in your reality, you never will. So what am I going to say to you? And why does it matter? You aren’t leaving this small southern town of small minded people, nobody from the outside world is coming to you, and the Internet is considered the devil to many down there, so I’m pretty confident the ignorance is contained.

But back to the restaurant! Not even a week goes by at work, and one night, we run out of tea in the middle of a busy hour. My coworker who was just the epitome of southern belle, who usually sweetens the tea, was too busy with her tables to get to the kitchen. So this other girl makes the new batch. I bring my drinks to my table, and a couple guests try the tea, cringe, and ask for something else. Okay. I leave to get them something else to drink. But I walk into the kitchen to see a bunch of my coworkers waiting to use the soda machine. Every person at their tables apparently sent back the tea. Every black person, that is…


4 Replies to “The Other Sweet Tea”

  1. Sad part is that Privledged Whites maintain their privledged position through
    this kind of humiliation and disrespect! One of subtle ways dominance is imposed!
    Please check your Email for a striking look at this issue- “White Male Privledge,
    Working Paper No. 39 by Peg McIntosh at Women’s Studies , Wellsely College.
    Detailed list of numberless everyday White Privledges- Must Read !!


  2. If someone asks if tea is “nigger sweet” the want it to be that way. Apparently, it is stereotyped that black people put significantly more sugar in tea/kool-aid/whatever than white people. I’ve actually had a black friend use “nigger sweet” himself to describe his tea. He will make a quart and put 2 cups of sugar in it. Gag.


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