3:30 PM: You’re let off of work early so everyone has time to prepare for the company Christmas party at Dandelion Market in Charlotte, NC. You’re feeling excited – you haven’t been uptown or had an opportunity to dress up for awhile. You take a shower, wash your hair, and redo your makeup. You even use eyeshadow! You choose a knee length navy blue dress with a bit of decolletage, the 8-foot strand of pearls your fiance gave you, doubled four times, and the pearl earring studs your mother gave you. OK, it’s not exactly vegan – but you had this jewelry before you were vegan, and being a practical vegan you love and wear the h*ll out of it.
6:45 PM: Your fiance parks the car and the two of you get out and walk the few blocks to Dandelion Market. Your heart is bursting with love and pride for your partner who looks very handsome in his “interview” suit. As a Sikh, he is wearing his “African-style” black turban and his full beard is neatly brushed and tied so it lies smooth against the contours of his face. He’s also wearing one of the Polo colognes and he smells wonderful! You’ve been told the two of you make an attractive, striking couple, and you are aware of some admiring glances as you walk hand in hand down the street.
You’re also aware of a few not-so-admiring glances – whether at his turban or because you’re an inter-racial couple, you don’t know. It’s not a big deal. You’re used to it by now. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you … (oh, but you didn’t know then you had to be wary of sticks and stones! You’ll know by the end of the night, however.)
7:00 PM: You arrive at Dandelion Market. You walk past some large men (bouncers?) and the girls in the front greet you pleasantly and check both your names off the guest list and direct you upstairs to your company Christmas party.
7:00 – 10:00 PM: The whole top floor of Dandelion Market has been reserved for your company’s private party. You have fun at the party, introducing your fiance to some of the people you work with. The two of you spend a long time in pleasant conversation with your immediate supervisor and his wife and your closest coworkers. The new owner of one of the shopping centers your company manages strikes up a conversation with the two of you, which eventually includes the topic of diversity in Charlotte (which he’s a big proponent of). Of course, there’s also the coworker who has barely spoken to you at work since she first saw a picture of your fiance, and she barely speaks to you here. Whatever. Your fiance notices her rudeness and that of one other coworker and comments on it. You agree but don’t want to make him feel bad by saying the reason why. He already knows anyway.
10:00 PM: The floor becomes open to the public. Friendly girls put wristbands on your wrists, explaining that you’re welcome to stay as long as you like and your drinks and food will be covered by your company.
11:00 PM: You go downstairs to the kitchen to see if there’s anything vegan you can order. The only thing they have is fruit and pita wedges. They heat up the pita wedges, tell you there’s no charge because of your wristband, and you carry the food upstairs. You and your partner sit in a private booth together, talking and eating bread.
Around 11:15 PM: You get up to go to the restroom and see a large man walking to your table.
While you are in the restroom, the bouncer tells your fiance he has to leave. When your partner responds why, the bouncer says it is because he was sleeping. Your partner responds he was not sleeping and had in fact been eating. In response, the bouncer grabs him by the neck and physically pushes him across the room, down the stairs, and to the door. Making a public show and spectacle.
You come back to the table, unaware that anything is wrong. You think your partner must have gone to the restroom himself. You drink some water, eat some bread.
You begin to feel slightly worried.
The bouncer returns to your table and tells you “your husband has been removed and he’s probably waiting for you outside.” Your heart races. Removed? Why? What happened? When you left, things were fine – you had been sitting together in a private booth, eating and talking! Had someone come up and started a fight with him? Swung a punch? You know your fiance is not a violent guy. Heck, he’s vegan. The two of you are as peaceful and harmless as they come.
You run downstairs and see him at the entrance to Dandelion Market, just inside the foyer. He tells you he has been removed because he was “sleeping.” You know that is not so because you were with him. You spoke to one of the principals of your company 30 minutes ago, you know after spending what must easily be several thousand dollars on the party he would not want your fiance to be removed. You head upstairs, confident that the principal will talk to management and take care of it.
YOU NEVER MAKE IT UP THE STAIRS. You are slammed from behind. You are grabbed by the upper arms and then the wrists and pulled downstairs. At some point you fall. When you yell “WHY?” the response is, “Because you’re with HIM.” You are thrown out the door.
11:30 PM. You are standing across the street, looking at Dandelion Market in hopes you will see your fiance if he is waiting there for you.
You don’t know what may have happened to him.
You’ve been beaten – he may have been, too.
You don’t want to think about the worse.
But you can’t NOT think about it.
You’re calling and texting, texting, TEXTING your fiance on your cell phone and there’s no response.
People on the street are STARING.
You’ve dressed so carefully for tonight but now you are crying and your mascara is running down your face.
Your dressed is ripped, ruined.
Your hose are torn.
You’re missing one of your pearl earrings.
You have NO EFFING IDEA WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING OR WHY!
A coworker comes and sees you standing on the street crying. He comes over to help. At about that point your fiance (wherever he was) sees you and runs over. During the time you were attempting to go upstairs, he was speaking to the manager arguing he was not sleeping and was told he was removed “because people were complaining about the Muslim guy being there.”
You go home. People advise you not to say or do anything, it will just be your fault because you were drinking. (Your fiance had actually stopped hours ago, and you’d had four drinks in four hours. What the heck, it is a bar. And the company Christmas party.)
You stay in bed, bruised and depressed for several days.
Your body hurts like hell.
Then you think, f*ck it, even if the police can’t do anything you’re going to report it anyway.
If it’s happening to you, it’s happening to others.
They can bruise your body but they can’t shut your mouth.
Going to the police turns out to be a comedy of errors. You give the report to the cops over the phone. They say they will send out an officer. Then they say come into headquarters. Then they say they can’t find the report that was just taken, so wait for officers to come by to file a new report. The officers eventually do. They have a look of extreme boredom and warn that it’s a private club (actually, it isn’t) and therefore they have the right to turn away anyone. The club also doesn’t have to release the name of the bouncers or of any video footage.
The police don’t even want to file a report until they see the bruises on your arms. They visibly flinch when they see those. They don’t want to see the bruises on your back, though.
People tell you the news media might be interested. In fact, you do have a top reporter interested in your case, but then the matter kinda drops. Maybe she really was interested, but obviously her network wasn’t. Discrimination and hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims (or people just assumed to be Muslims) aren’t really hot topics. If you were black or gay, probably you could have gotten some token coverage. Indian … well that’s not really topical. That’s not hot.
Lawyers aren’t interested either. You can’t get a lot of “damages” for bruises.
So, eventually, the only thing left to do is … take it to the people.
Take it to the Internet.