One of the readings that touched me most out of what we had to go through in our journey as padawans is June Jordan’s Report from the Bahamas, 1982. As I am an aspiring researcher in the field of hospitality, Jordan’s article got me excited from sentence one: “I am staying in a hotel that calls itself The Sheraton British Colonial.”
Why does she say “calls itself”? (Hmmm, there must be something there..) She goes on describing an advertisement for the hotel that depicts a middle-aged black man (native?) in full upper scale waiter’s uniform, knee deep into the water, offering beverages with a smile. (Classic! I tell myself..) Then I find out why the “calls itself”: in an attempt to appear authentic, the hotel’s “page of history” preceding the welcome message completely fails to mention the Bahamian people, solely revolving the historical depiction around the “new world”. Going through the article, through the author’s stories and thoughts and fascinating revealed consciousness of race, and class, and gender identity, I cannot help but go back once more wondering at this field of hospitality of mine. We (hoteliers and restaurateurs) verbally commend diversity and proudly educate and “train for it”, because we are “a people intensive industry”. Yet we praise and nurture standards: of service (“service with a smile” being number one pretty much everywhere, by the way), and maintenance, and housekeeping, and luggage handling, and meals, and “quality”, and what not. So we teach diverse people how to become identical and how to put on smiling masks to please the customer, and never ever express personal value judgments. We declare that “the human resource is key”, yet we are amongst the top industries in terms of turnover.
Just like Jordan says, “the usual race and class concepts of connection or gender assumptions of unity do not apply very well”. Supposedly inventing standards to adhere by does however create connections, both amongst employees themselves and between employees and customers. It is all relative. But I do believe that no matter what field you are in, and no matter how strict the molding you have to fit in in order to “successfully perform” is, it is not so much “who you are” but rather, like Jordan says, “what you know and what you are prepared to do about what you know that is going to make you free”. So I remind myself to try to stay thirsty for knowledge for as long as possible, which I wish to you all!