We’ve all been to one version or another of Norma’s Café in Farmers Branch, Texas. It’s where the locals hang out. The menu is predictable, the décor utilitarian. Sometimes the waitress is friendly to everyone. Other times she saves her smiles for the regulars.
ABC’s “What Would You Do?” show decided to see how diners at Norma’s Café would react to a lesbian couple and their two children. The two women held hands, gave each other a quick kiss, and talked over plans for the day with their son and daughter. The waitress went on the attack, scolding them for their lack of morals.
What onlookers didn’t know was that all five—waitress, moms, and children—were actors who had been carefully coached in the kinds of bigotry same-sex couples often endure.
Here’s where stereotypes kick in, and not just toward same-sex couples. I admit I figured there would be little support for the family in this conservative small town. After all, Texas is one of 29 states where gays can be refused service, just because they are gay.
I was dead wrong. The ABC crew staged the scenario more than once. Out of the 53 patrons who witnessed the abuse, 24 of them spoke up in support of the family.
And here’s another stereotype getting the boot. Big cities are more tolerant, right? “What Would You Do?” visited some New York city (not named in the video) the year before. There 100 bystanders had a chance to speak up. Only 12 did.
Neither episode is the final word on how people react when someone is being bullied, but the short film from Texas caught me in the act of imposing some of my own stereotypical thinking.
Thanks, Norma’s Cafe patrons, for being so supportive of this “family”. Your example will inspire others to do the same.