Op-Ed By Lauren Paylor: I Am A Black Woman. I Am A Woman. I Am.

I am a Black woman. I am a woman. I am.

Op-Ed by Lauren Chaddaisha Paylor

When I take a step back to think about my experience in the food and beverage industry, I’ve been blessed. I have had the opportunity to work at and manage Michelin Starred Restaurants and James Beard Awarded establishments, worked directly under managers who were included in publications from sites and magazines such as Imbibe and Punch. Attended events such as Tales of the Cocktails and Portland Cocktail Week at my company’s expense and have been able to successfully pass my sommelier and cicerone level one.

But are these blessings? Anyone who is given the opportunity to be successful could have the same fortunes. There are many disproportions that exist within our industry. One great example of this are the hiring practices. Picture this, two applications. One that says Chaddaisha Paylor and one that says Lauren Paylor. They both have all of the same credentials but you would not know that because you didn’t even bother to look at Chaddaisha’s resume, you stopped looking right after you saw her name. Funny story, that is my name. Lauren Chaddaisha Paylor. You are probably asking yourself, “How would she know that?” I know this because I always used my birth name Chaddaisha until I realized she never got a callback.

Okay, here is another scenario. Let’s take a look at promotions within establishments. Imagine this, you are an African American female who is the bar manager of an establishment. You have worked there for several years, are well versed in every role at the establishment, and apply for the beverage director position. You interview for the role, are ensured that you did well and that they cannot wait to work with you in the new position. Your credentials prove that you are very much qualified for the position. A few days pass by and a bartender with far less experience, two write-ups, and white skin has just been announced as the new beverage director.

Not only has he displayed blatant disrespect for everyone that he has worked with but he is not qualified for the position. You know this because of what you have observed as his manager and from the comments your superiors have made. You find yourself speaking up asking, “What happened?” Their reasoning is that you are just not a good fit, no further explanation. The work environment becomes a bit toxic, they are asking way more of you, being unreasonably difficult about time off, writing you up when you speak against unjust matters in the establishment and suddenly you resign. How would I know this you ask? Because it was me.

Let’s chat about consulting opportunities. Consulting gigs pay very good money. In the world of beverage, the cost usually includes the cost of the menu, lead up costs, liquor list development, and staff training. Depending on the person that is hired and their experience they can get anywhere from $8k – $10k, sometimes even more. Imagine constantly having your rate being negotiated. There is nothing wrong with negotiation. You deny opportunities as a result of them not being aligned with your quoted prices or just being lowballed. What a surprise to find out that your white competitor ends up getting offered more money than you for the gigs that you ended up turning down. Imagine that. It happens all too often.

One more scenario. Let’s take a look at discriminatory practices towards patrons. Imagine patronizing an establishment known for its outstanding wine program. You walk in and approach a group of your white friends at the bar. They are all seated and you walk over to the bar top leaning against the bar with your arm. Five minutes has passed by and you have all had an
opportunity to catch up. The bartender walks over for what you think is their attempt to take your drink order. Instead, he walks up to your friends and asks, “Is this person bothering you, are you all okay?” How would I know you ask? Yeah, you guessed it…because it was me.

If you saw my resume, without my name you’d see the qualifications:

  • Bar Manager for James Beard Awarded Establishments
  • Bar Smarts Graduate
  • Introductory Sommelier
  • Introductory Cicerone
  • DMV Black Restaurant Week Competition Winner 2019
  • World Class Finalist 2019
  • Hardy Cognac Winner 2019
  • Bartender Silver Lyan
  • Co-Founder/ Owner Focus On Health

What does this say about our industry? That someone who has had great successes still encounters implicit bias and mistreatment because of the color of their skin? Perhaps it is the importance of recognizing that our leaders must be trained on inclusivity and recognizing bias in order to ensure their employees are being just with the way that they treat others? What is my worth? I don’t necessarily know the answer but what I do know is that this is a problem that exists. It affects me, my career, and my decisions every single day. I am worth more than this. Much, much more. I am a fighter. I am a bartender. I am an educator. I am a friend. I am a mentor. I am a black woman. I am Lauren Chaddaisha Paylor.

We need to support the black people in our industry. We rely on them heavily for positions and jobs that we do not value. To do the hard labor, and work without credit. But our industry doesn’t have a racism issue? Their opinions are often not valued and their voices often go unheard. We need to stand up for them when unjust matters occur and ensure that they feel protected in their establishments. This needs to change. NOW. I want more people that look like me to succeed in our industry. To just be given an opportunity and standing chance. That really begins with you, all of you.

Support, educate, stand up and speak up.

Photography of feature image by Shannon Sturgis (@shannonshootscocktails

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