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Confronting Bigotry: Lessons from a Houston Restaurant

A Houston waiter is being hailed as an everyday hero after he refused to serve a customer.  "Special needs children should be special somewhere else."  This was the ugly sentiment uttered as a man and his party moved tables at a restaurant after apparently being offended by the presence of a 5 year-old child with Down syndrome.  The waiter heard this, and then announced to the bigot, "I cannot serve you."  The man and his group quickly left. If I had been in that restaurant I would have stood and applauded.  I love the waiter's sensitivity, and his courage in standing up to the customer. His action in the name of Justice is truly remarkable. But I'm still left wishing more could have happened. Ignorance and prejudice must be engaged whenever possible. Refusing service was admirable, but were the narrow and ugly views of the bigot toward children with special needs changed even a little? Maybe. I understand that it was a busy restaurant and a Socratic dialogue probably wasn't possible, but how much deeper would the lesson have gone if a couple of questions had been launched before the man exited (e.g. "You're moving seats because the child is being noisy, or because he has Down syndrome?", "What exactly is it about special needs children that bothers you so much?", "Do you propose we keep special needs children out of our restaurant?").  Kudos to the waiter....and a gentle reminder to all of us that courage, when joined to reason, changes the world.

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