How Good Is The Best Seat In Town?

“A seat at the table” is one of the earliest quotes I remember hearing. Almost every adult, whether I knew them personally or if they were…

“A seat at the table” is one of the earliest quotes I remember hearing. Almost every adult, whether I knew them personally or if they were business people or celebrities, mentioned this phrase. I understood it to mean making a space for yourself in a space not meant for you.

The table can be mainstream society, the world of business, or even spaces of immense wealth.

So many groups of people have been and are actively being kept from so many spaces for no reason other than their economic status, where they are from, or the color of their skin. To be able to break through these barriers and find oneself in the very space they were so actively kept from is amazing and courageous. Or is it?

For a long time, I wanted a seat at the table of my own. I wanted to be a billionaire, own a television network, win Emmy’s and Oscar’s every single year. I wanted to break down the doors closed in the face of dark-skinned, middle class children of single mothers, just like me. The food at these tables looked good, and I wanted in.

But as I got older I realized that “a seat at the table” is mostly fluff. Larger concepts can be shrunk down and made comparable to other experiences we all have, and I’ll explain my stance this way. The idea of “a seat at the table” is similar to a real table. There are groups of people who eat at the nicest restaurants every night. They order the nicest food and have servers waiting on them hand and foot.

From the outside looking in, it looks nice and it’s understandable that everyone would want to join in. There’s a smaller place across the street. This restaurant isn’t necessarily 5-star, but the food is wonderful and home-made. The music is fun and someone is always dancing. The servers work the best they can and are always down to help someone else get a job there.

Sometimes the patrons of the smaller restaurant get upset though. The people across the street often call them poor, lazy, illegal, and numerous racial slurs. When the smaller restaurant hosts fundraisers to help people in the neighborhood, the people across the straight clutch their wallets close to them and laugh, vowing to never give a dime to anyone but themselves.

Sometimes they even catch that group stealing recipes to take to the nicer restaurant and claim they made the recipe themselves. But although these things hurt, the patrons of the small restaurant know they have a safe place and are surrounded by people who love them and want them there.

Eventually someone from the smaller restaurant stares across the street a little too long and decides to ask to come inside. It’s a hard journey to cross the street, this is true. The street is full of potholes, cracks in the ground, and all sorts of roadblocks. But a few do make it across.

And every so often, they are allowed in. They get to experience the fanciest food and the best ambience money can buy. But they notice they are treated a little bit differently. The jokes they tell those sitting next to them get repeated louder for the whole table to hear, but with no credit given. They are often served last, getting just the scraps of food. They hear the snide remarks and the slurs whispered by others. This is terrible, they tell themselves, but at least we have a seat at the table. They know that their friends and family at the other restaurant feel left behind and they sometimes hear the cries of “sell-out” from across the street. But they’re just jealous, of course. They don’t understand what it’s like to have a seat at the table! The best table in town! The table everyone wants to be at. Sometimes, though, they wish they could invite some of their old friends over. They know they would like the food there too. They always promise they’ll give back or bring others up with them, and they want to make good on that promise. But every time they go to stand up and get them, someone grabs their arm and says “Don’t go too far; you might lose your seat.” And they always sit back down.

This is the reality of the “seat at the table” concept. It sounds nice, especially when you are on the outside looking in. Centuries of being beat down and blocked, told you are not good enough, can cause one to think that the only way to win is to beat them at their own game, to get to that very place they tried so hard to keep them from. But if one pauses, and thinks about the company they are trying so hard to keep, it doesn’t seem as glamorous.

At these various tables are racists, greedy misers, rapists, liars, and cheats. At these tables are the reasons our parents can no longer afford their homes and the reasons our generation is drowning in debt. These tables are filled with the ones stealing money from our hometown athletes that put their bodies on the line every day and the ones that have locked our favorite music artists in predatory contracts. At these tables are people that hate us and have actively attempted to block us from any semblance of happiness for centuries. Who would want to sit at that table, no matter how good the food is?

I hope going forward our communities can adopt a new concept. One of creating our own tables and making them the best they can be. Why not? They’re eating our recipes anyway. We are often the ones serving the food. We have been denied so many things in our society, sometimes even our right to life. And yet we have persevered and made amazing things happen.

We don’t need validation from anyone else to tell us we have a right to be in any space. We should surround ourselves by those who want us around, and not just “accept” us once we have a certain net worth.

We are the best cooks, the best hostesses, the best servers, and the best guests. We don’t need a seat at anyone else’s table. Our own is just fine.

By Jessica Coleman

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments, opinions on this website are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of M-Lifestyle and their affiliates. M-Lifestyle does not claim ownership of any images used, unless otherwise specified.




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