White Wedding, Black Servers: Bad Optics?

Race Manners: When it comes to the racial dynamic, worry about how things are, not how they look. 

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“I’m writing to ask your advice about my upcoming wedding. We have asked our favorite jerk-chicken takeout restaurant, run by an immigrant Jamaican family, to cater a BBQ picnic for our wedding. Their food is fantastic, and we feel good about this.

“However, we (the couple) are two half-Jewish white women, and the optics (h/t Ralph Ellison) are not good. We are particularly concerned that our friends who are working-class and/or of color not feel uncomfortable. As a result of the location and timing of the wedding, only between eight and 15 will be people of color, depending on who can make it at the last minute. And of those, at most five will be black, and one will be my fiancee’s former babysitter-nanny. The other guests of color will be young lawyers, academics and activists, who will definitely notice any lapses of racial etiquette.

“Another potential pitfall is my racist, Zionist, Republican uncle and his equally tone-deaf daughter.

“In a way, hiring a Jamaican family to cater our wedding simply makes more apparent the privilege that our whiteness generally allows us to overlook. In that sense, if we and some guests feel moved to reflect on that privilege, all the better. But is there anything we can do—or shouldn’t do—to make our guests of color, our caterers and ourselves feel more comfortable?” —Bride Bothered by Bias

I’m sure you remember one of the missteps that ultimately got Paula Deen fired from the Food Network and made her the topic of the infamous #PaulasBestDishes hashtag mocking the television chef’s views on African Americans. In one of the nonpostracial highlights of 2013, she said she wanted to plan a plantation-themed wedding in which she would enlist “black men to play the role of slaves.” Because, in her world, that would be really whimsical and fun.

The whole thing was jaw-dropping because it revealed a longing for a time when being black in America meant major injustice and suffering, as well as a total lack of regard for how an event of that type might affect people who are around today.

You are not Paula Deen. Your wedding is not that wedding.