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Black in Minneapolis

1) We followed the young hostess through the mostly empty restaurant to the back table—furthest from the door, only a few feet from the waiter station—and stalled there. Shame plastered all over her face as she set down the menus. Was she seating us there because of our skin color? Was she told to do this by her manager? We asked her for another table, pointing to one in the center of the room. And she hesitated, only giving in when we seated ourselves. 2) Three readers into a group reading, bar packed, crowd already rocking, an older white man in a motorcycle jacket walked through the crowd, making a beeline toward the stage. I saw him in my periphery and stiffened. When he got there, he reached out, he handed the poet a flier, who was already deep into his poem but stopped mid-line and took what was handed to him. He smiled at the man. “Thank you.” The look on his face was one of amusement and barely disguised anger. We should check out the band down the street, the man said. He continued telling us what to do, yelling finally, as he walked back toward the front. The poet dropped the flier to the floor. Smiling brightly, hand out theatrically, he started up again, from the top. The crowd roared in approval. It was as if the man in the jacket had been made to disappear. 3) We lucked into the small Ethiopian joint, late, happy to grab a seat by the window. The place was full of young men and women, families, older couples. Our party of four settled into the scene like a bather letting the body down into the near scalding water. Our meal came. We ate, laughing and conversing. Our waitress stopped to tell us about the meal we were enjoying. End of the night, past midnight, two young girls started dancing to the music blasting from the speaker. They swayed elegantly and proudly in the aisle. People clapped at their impromptu performance. We watched all this from the side, catching only glimpses, not wanting to intrude. We were so happy. We wanted the night to go on and on.