#AtoZChallenge: I is for It’s Not Always Racism (Even When Pizza is Involved)

stormtrooper glass ball

Two girls walk into a pizza parlor.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. It’s kind of late for a school night. They’ve just lost a playoff soccer game. Thoughts turn from how to build an attack, to where can we load up on pizza. As a team, we just want a place to sit and eat and be together.

The internet says the place is open until 10.

It’s almost 9. Only, the person behind the counter asks the girls, are you going to order? We close at 9. The girls tell them the door says 10, and so does the internet. It’s wrong. So are you going to order?

Rude, right?

So as the rest of us arrive, we gather in the parking lot to see who else is open. Cici’s is. We circulate the address and see a couple wander toward the pizza parlor doors. They see the open sign, read the hours on the door.

Closing time?

They walk in.

They walk to the counter, and we see them pulling out wallets and looking at the buffet. So we call the restaurant. Another person tells us they’re open until 9:30. We have a hungry soccer team out here, we tell him.

We tell him we were told they close at 9, in a rude way.

He apologizes, says it was a mistake. Come on in, he says. Honestly, this chain sounds more delicious right now than the other. And it’s right here. But some have already headed to the other place, and really, I don’t like girls on my team treated rudely.

Cici’s is clean and well-stocked and besides a snafu with one order (a mom bought my family dinner!), it’s a great experience.

You should call the corporate office, the Cici’s manager suggests when I tell her what happened. I’m apprehensive. We’ve got our pizza, and tables together. The other place missed out on the business. This stuff happens every day in a free market.

There’s another factor in this that might have made it to the news cycle, with words such as “outrage” and “discrimination.” Only, I’m not at all convinced it would be right.

qg soccer

Bound by love for the game

The girls who ventured into the restaurant first? They’re both minorities. Our team’s pretty diverse, just because that’s how our school is. We don’t celebrate it, mostly because we’re bound by our love of the game and that takes precedence.

We’re proud of it, though, and will take up for a sister at the drop of a practice penny.

As I was working on my second (okay, fourth) plate of pie, I looked at the girls who were told no. They’re fine. They’re eating with friends and happy. I didn’t even ask them what race the people who denied them a spot in the other place because it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter I reminded myself.

I joked that we should have sent two others in first. Two white girls. But even in the joke of it, I tasted how toxic it felt. From a minority perspective, this isn’t easy for us, either. It’s difficult to take our skin tone out of the equation although, for me, I’d love to.

I’m just a man, with dark skin, but 100% human and just here for decent traffic, good pizza and the opportunity to choose generic junk cereal if I so choose.

I thought also how this could have ignited had I called a news outlet with the scoop that two girls – minority girls – walked into a pizza parlor tonight, and …

Who really knows?

Except, it wasn’t like that. That we know. And if you can’t say for sure … you shouldn’t say at all.

We like to make assumptions and believe we know exactly what others have in mind when they treat us a certain way.

What was the girl’s motivation? Did she not like how our girls looked? Their skin tone?


School on their jerseys? Did she have a sick mom/cat/skating video to get home to, and didn’t particularly want to deal with a boatload of buffet chompers like us?

Thing is, she really didn’t say.

We pushed Cici’s close time. They asked us what kinds of pies we wanted and they put them in the oven. Then, as we finished, they doled out boxes for us to take home what was left.

For me? A night with tons of slices? That’s a good night.

No one got hurt. The girl at the first place got to go home a little earlier probably. Our team hung out and killed many pizzas and rescued many others. And the world was spared another story.

Because there wasn’t really a story to tell. Other than the end to another season. A strong showing, in a loss. A take-home haul of pizza that would probably last until morning at least. And a pizza joint that just missed out on the coolest team in town.

Other posts in the A to Z Challenge

A is for Approachable Stranger in Target

B is for Boy without a job

C is for Courtney Wright, guest blogger

D is for Designer, as in graphic, as in #GirlsRock: An interview with Amber Lorine

E is for Is he EVER going to catch up?

F is for Finally – he’s writing again (thanks, Cheryl Strayed!)

G is for Guest post – Lauren Mayhew, on Buried Treasure

H is for Here, as in Far From Here (Guest Post by Beatrice Pittoco)

quote merton harmony




  1. Kathy G says:

    I think you made the right call by not making a big deal out of it. I’d give the first place the benefit of doubt, but then I’ve never been on the wrong side of discrimination.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Unless a places tells me, like in the old Westerns, “We don’t serve your kind,” well, I can’t make that claim. And honestly? If they don’t, someone else will. And they’ll get my business.

  2. cricketmuse says:

    It’s a difficult call these days. I wonder if we are super sensitized to possible racism, and are ready to make a bigger deal than needs to be. Wasn’t there, so it’s hard to read it. But it must have been frustrating.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I thought it would be difficult, but it was easy. Maybe if we concentrated more on how we treated people – and didn’t assume the worst. The poor dude at the QT yesterday was confused about an ice cream order and the customers assumed he was being mean to them. He was just rattled.

      I didn’t want these girls to think that they should assume someone made it personal. They deserve better than that. Even if one wasn’t my daughter.

  3. My son is an assistant manager at a pizza place (local to the area). They have been known to close early, especially if they haven’t had much business for the past hour and they are running low on dough anyway.

    They also close the buffet line and stop taking delivery orders a half hour before close.

    It may have simply been the buffet was closed, and she was assuming the girls and their teammates would want the buffet.

    No matter why she said that, it’s that restaurant’s loss, and i don’t blame you for not making a big deal of it.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Yes! So many factors. I’ve wanted to close up shop early. For many reasons.

      Also? I think it’s a good practice to not expect others to treat us just as we would treat them. The world’s too complex for that most times. Just be in the moment. We all have them.

  4. Lauren Becker says:

    I mean, if it was a race thing, that’s awful. But you’re right to have just let it go because you can’t say for sure what their reasoning was. Maybe they just wanted to go home. Who knows? I’m sorry to hear this though – it’s rude, no matter why. I’m glad Cici’s was so nice and accommodating though!


    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      If it was a race thing, there’s nothing we can do to change it. And any reason – well, does it matter? I’d have had a much more irritable tone if I’d NOT been able to load up on pizza elsewhere.

  5. ksbeth says:

    it makes me a bit sad to read this, but good not to have reacted in a negative manner, without knowing the truth behind the response. i’m ever hopeful for the good in people and am always surprised when they disappoint me. you taught your team a great lesson in civility and giving others the benefit of the doubt.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The bad behavior tends to stay in our minds, doesn’t it? A disappointing action doesn’t doom someone either – maybe another time we’ll stop back in and maybe she’ll be in a great mood. I loved the ability to deny the situation the ability to become volitile. There was no need.

  6. Love the Merton quote. Not knowing why your girls were treated rudely, letting your dollars do the talking was a good way to go.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I thought the quote was fitting! We were all treated so well at the other place (and by each other) it seemed disingenuine to give the rude treatment any more attention!)

  7. stomperdad says:

    Our pizza place is open till 1 or 2 am. Even later on weekends (I got a pizza at 3:30 am once) I didn’t have a soccer team with me, though. Good on your for choosing another place without a fuss. Their loss. I’d be happy to serve a soccer team because A) SOCCER! and B) I know how much a soccer team and their coach will eat.

  8. Joey says:

    It’s a complicated issue to be sure. We’ve had lots of conversations in our house about the viral videos of racist behavior and whether that’s the right response to hate. People lose their jobs and I wonder if the posting of a video is really a loving response to a hateful situation. But where we landed on the issue is that people have to be told (again) that it’s not right. If the place was closing, fine. But if it wasn’t, if my white family could walk in and order at 9, then that employee needs to be informed. They ought to have an opportunity for introspection at least. Perhaps they are harboring some bias that needs to be addressed.

    Racism is very alive in our country. We’re not going to get rid of it by ignoring it. Do I think your incident was an act of prejudice? Not necessarily. We should hold each other accountable though so we can all learn to actively treat each other as equals.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It’s not right, that’s true – but I would rather eat peacefully in a place that wants me there than force my way into a place that might not. I believe racism isn’t something we can regulate away. It’s something I see dying a slow death. Maybe too slow, but a death nonetheless.

      Kids are growing up in more tolerant times and with more widespread acceptance. Racism is the outlier more and more with each decade that passes. I believe there are families and towns and communities in which its being challenged as the status quo by those born into a more understanding world.

      It’ll take time. If I meet a racist, I have little chance of converting him. I do have faith, however, that the world we live in will show his children a better way.

  9. Laura says:

    This was a thought provoking perspective and I’m really glad you put it out there. I have to work hard to stay level headed when young people get treated poorly, no matter the reason. I can see both sides of this. And I’m glad your team enjoyed their pizza fest at CiCis!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Laura – I feel like sometimes we have to be honest about what’s there, and be sure that we bring the humanity to the situation. No matter what. Everyone was happy. And I thank you so much for reposting this on your blog! I’m honored.

  10. It’s a shame that anyone would be so rude, regardless of whether it was a race thing or not. I’m glad you found a place that was accommodating to the team. Nothing like some yummy pizza after a game!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      All we wanted was pizza, during regular business hours, Lecy. And really, that we did get to spend time together as a team and kill tons of pizza (and bring some home!) is what the kids will remember.

  11. Their loss. I do not tolerate racism from any side because I was brought up without prejudice. I do not see color. You were wise though to not assume the reasons were the color of the skin of the girls. Sometimes it is just a break down of communications or any of the other issues you brought up. If you had made a big deal about it, there could have been unforeseen consequences that could have made matters worse. CiCi’s rules anyway! Better choice… ❤

  12. TheTaskGirl says:

    What a great post. While racism is hardly something to downplay, and is important to acknowledge, it is often an easy subject for the media to focus on, as it is so controversial. This is a blessing and a curse; it can help expose injustice, but often many are condemned for stupid things they said or did when they were young, and the actual victims unfortunately get lost in the spectacle. The real offenders never have the opportunity to try to better themselves morally (though they probably have little interest in doing so), and the victims are exploited for their story. This writer has shown more maturity toward a harsh possibility than the media ever could have or would have. I’m a bit inclined to think that the girl at the counter probably just didn’t want to stay late so she lied about the closing time (this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard about that kind of thing on late shifts) but what’s important to me here is that he didn’t let his suspicion of the rude woman’s intentions mar his team’s simple joy at being together. That is what a coach is supposed to do; bring people together.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you for such a great response! Headline chasing can definitely cloud judgement, and on a more basic level, we behave differently. I’ve always felt the desire to move away from injustice; if someone doesn’t like me for my race, or skin tone, or carnivore lifestyle or favorite teams, so be it. I will find fellowship (or do business) elsewhere. I feel as if racism and other extreme biases are a dying breed.

      I feel as if even in places where people are hard-wired for it, there will be those born into it who won’t follow the lead. They’ve lead a life on a higher plane and most likely raise children who are more accepting.

      In the end, having compassion toward those who sometimes don’t show us the same is essential. The punches must stop. So many times this soccer season, my team has faced harsh treatment, and I’m proud to say that we respond in the strongest way possible – with grace, dignity and unshakable humanity.

      Because above all, we have each other. And pizza. Pizza makes things better.

      Look forward to checking out your work. If your posts are as enlightening as your comments, you’ll soon become a favorite! Thanks for being here.

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