LOUISVILLE, KYSadly, in 1998, America remains a nation deeply divided along racial lines. It's enough to cause one to lose hope. But divided as we are, every now and again something comes along to remind us just how much can be achieved when we view our differences as assets rather than liabilities.
The afternoon crew at Louisville's Carver Street McDonald's is just such a beacon of hope.
In a powerful and touching example of what can happen when people join together without concern for race, this McDonald's multiethnic, seven-person crew has been working in harmony for months now, blind to differences in skin color, united by the common goal of creating a better burger.
"Like our nation itself, this restaurant's crew is made up of a diverse pastiche of backgrounds," day-shift manager Ray Garner said. "But while, all too often in America, people tend to 'stick to their own kind,' fearful of those who are different, around here blacks and whites work side by side, committed to cooking up the freshest, tastiest Big Macs and double cheeseburgers possible for our valued customers."
According to Garner, in many fast-food restaurants across the U.S., black employees tend to cluster in the grill area, while whites like to position themselves at the preparation table. Typically, the result of such voluntary racial segregation, Garner said, is a hamburger that is not as good as it could have been.
"This sort of lack of communication between the grill and prep stations can result in the cooking of too many beef patties, which in turn can lead to the serving of burgers with insufficiently fresh patties. In short, the racial tensions that have simmered in the U.S. for centuries are still keeping many fast-food establishments from cooking up the best possible food for their customers. And that is just sad."
Each day, before the start of the afternoon shift, Garner gives his crew a pep talk to remind them what it is they are fighting against.
"I tell them, 'It's not about black or white, or my color versus your color. We're here with one purpose, and that is to serve our customers the freshest, highest quality burgers possible. Around here, the only color that matters is the deep-brown hue of a well-cooked Quarter Pounder."
"When I first started working here, I would occasionally allow my anger over American society's oppression of blacks to keep me from interacting positively with white co-workers," said lead grill cook Malik Turner, 19, one of four blacks on the seven-person crew. "But I soon realized that such resentment was not just hurting me, but also the customer. And that's a tragedy."
Prep cook Brian Schickle, a 20-year-old white, agreed. "When I look at Malik, I see not someone whose skin color is different from mine, but rather a fellow human being with whom I share the planet, a human being who needs to know how we're doing on patties if our customers are to leave as satisfied as possible with their McDonald's dining experience."
Apparently, the crew's color-blindness is paying off, as the restaurant's burgers are earning accolades from diners of all races.
"I don't believe I've ever been served so delicious and fresh-tasting a hamburger in my life," said Louisville-area bank teller Morton Wallensky, who visited the restaurant Monday on his lunch hour. "This is the taste of love and cooperation among all God's children, and I wish that the people of all nations could take a big bite for themselves."
"I'd like to think that what's happening here is taking root with our customers and changing their lives for the better," Garner said. "And when I read the comment cards in the suggestion box, I can't help but think that it is."