Letter To The Editor: I Was Racially Profiled At Angel of Harlem

February 21, 2018

To the Editor:

On Saturday, February 10, 2018 at approximately 3:00PM, my friends and I entered Angel of Harlem restaurant located on 123rd Street and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard. I approached the hostess and asked for a table for four. At this point, the restaurant was clearly over capacity and busting at the seams with people spilling out onto the sidewalk. Patrons were standing all over the place with very limited room for the waiters to serve. In a VERY disrespectful manner, the hostess with a clear attitude wrote my phone number, and party size on a piece of paper. When a table of four became available, we looked for the hostess to seat us. As it turns out, she was occupied frolicking with patrons in an unprofessional manner instead of operating her post. Therefore, we took the liberty of seating ourselves at the vacant table. A few minutes later she abruptly yelled at us to get up because the seats were taken. We complied and shuffled around in the overfilled space continuing to wait patiently for a table assignment. After 30 minutes, our party of four sat, and stood at the bar where two available seats opened up. We decided to explore the menu, and right as we were placing our drink orders with the female bartender, a Hispanic man appearing to be in his early 40’s, 5’9, 190lbs, well groomed, and dressed in all black brushed the bartender aside and confronted me friend face-to-face.

He asked, “How do you feel?” I replied, “I am a bit annoyed!” To which he replied he was too. We were caught off guard because we assumed he came to soothe any distress we may have encountered with the service and hostess.

He then asked “How do you plan on paying for you tab?” We all look confused because, we had not completed our drink orders, yet. So I asked what he was talking about.
He said, “How are paying – by cash or credit card because, you were here last week, and ran up a tab without paying.” Then he rudely snatched our menus out of our hands, and rudely accused ne again of being in the establishment the prior week. I calmly told him this was my first time in the restaurant.

At this time, he became violent by banging on the bar, and he continued in a confrontational manner falsely accusing me of lying and stealing. He tried to intimidate and dehumanize me with a “stare down,” and told me that he had me on the surveillance tape. So I replied and said – “Look at your tape because, I was not in Angel last week.”

At this point, the bartender returned to us and told us she was sorry and that she could not place our orders until he returns and gave permission.

A few minutes later, he approaches our group with footage of a woman who does not match my physical description, with the only similarity being that we are both black women. For example, I am African American female, 147lbs, 5’5”, light complexion, with long hair. The person on the footage was a large frame, busty African American female – around 225lbs, shoulder length hair, and with a darker caramel complexion.

We were beyond embarrassed, offended and mortified that he racially profiled her/us especially without sufficient evidence. At this point, our group of four was irate and pointed out to him – the person on the footage does not resemble our friend. Instead of being apologetic – he became defensive, VIOLENTLTY DEFENSIVE, which created a further public and embarrassing scene causing patrons to look on which made us feel even more dehumanized and TARGETED! We exited the restaurant and felt stressed, tensed, anxious and violated. We went across the street to the 28th NYPD precinct to get guidance and direction with our traumatic experience, as this was a false accusation of a crime and harassment!

Before leaving the restaurant, we did ask the negligent General Manager and several staff for the owner’s names so we could report this. No one seemed to know her name and they directed us to a generic email for the restaurant. Upon our own research we found out that establishment is owned by Anahi Angelone who also owns the Corner Social restaurant also in Harlem. We’ve attempted to reach her via email and social media, with no response from her. In our research, we found other Yelp reviews and Tweets imply similar mistreatment from other Black Women! And to add insult to injury, as we gave the guard in the front alcove of the restaurant a play-by-play of what happened, the inept Hostess kept circling the door, leering and smirking at us the entire time. Again targeting us and making us feel as if we were criminals and were supposed to be intimidated. So we confronted her to see what her issues was, to which she replied with a smirk and sarcastic comment.

There is also a review on Yelp with a very similar experience also on Saturday, in which another set of African American women were asked to leave the restaurant. Coincidence, I Think NOT!

Link to Yelp.

As a law abiding and tax paying citizen, I feel is my obligation to speak up in instances of mistreatment and prejudice, not only in my own defense, but for those who may not realize the power in their voice and their rights to be treated fairly. These businesses must understand the power of the Black dollar and that we will not accept dehumanizing treatment and will not sport businesses that support us! At this time, we don’t want an insincere apology, we want the GM and Hostess fired. If two separate groups had similar experiences on the same day, imagine how many have suffered RACIAL PROFILING over the two years this establishment has been open.

Tara Fitzgibbon, Harlem Via E-mail

New Yorkers who have experienced bias or discrimination are encouraged to call DHR’s toll-free hotline at (888) 392-3644 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. If you want to report a crime or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately. 

If you or someone you know believes they are the victim of discrimination or harassment, call 311 and ask for NYC Commission on Human Rights or call the Commission’s Infoline at 718-722-3131.

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