It’s no secret that Republicans and Democrats have been on opposing sides of many (if not most) issues for decades. But what happens when a black, liberal waitress is confronted by a table full of white, Republican, Trump supporters? Most people would expect an all-out brawl to break out, or at least a very loud argument. What actually happened, however, is much more unbelievable than anything anyone could have predicted.
The political divide
It’s popular opinion that Republicans and Democrats agree on nothing, and will always be on opposing sides of the fence. This has never been more true than in our most recent election, where Donald Trump went up against Hilary Clinton, and won. The Republicans were vicious about their win, and the Democrats were bitter about their loss, and many still are. But in this difficult time, some stories shine through with the beam of true hope.
Jason White is a 37 year old dentist from Texas, who along with his two friends from the same neighborhood, was in Washington for the presidential inauguration in January. High off the win of their favorite candidate, they were enjoying a weekend seeing the sights, including the Arlington cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and other tourist attractions around the city. All three men would categorise themselves as staunch Trump supporters.
In contrast, Rosalynd Harris is a black waitress from Washington, who is about as far from a Trump supporter as you could get. She works in well-known café Busboys and Poets, which is not just your average restaurant, but also a place which supports social justice, the walls plastered with black and minority role models, and often playing host to talks and discussions of a liberal nature. Rosalynd works two jobs to put herself through college, and doesn’t often socialize with your average Texan republican.
The Womens marches
Just two days previously, the day after Donald Trump took his oath of office, had been the day of the famous women’s marches, not just in Washington, but around the globe. Rosalynd had attended the womens march in Washingston, alongside as many as 500,000 other women. Amongst other things, they marched for reproductive health rights, women to be taken seriously in the workplace, and against many of the frightening things said by their new president, Donald Trump.
“Our rights aren’t up for grabs”
While the march was not specifically against the President, many marchers used the opportunity to get their feelings out about him, including placards which said “Love Trumps Hate”, “Our Rights Aren’t Up For Grabs, And Neither Are We”, and “No hate, no fear- everyone is welcome here” which referred to Trump’s views on immigration, in particular the wall around the Mexican border. No doubt that Jason White did not even think of attending, while Rosalynd had been in the thick of the action.
Busboys and Poets
The two people would probably never have met, if it wasn’t that Jason and his friends wandered into the Busboys and Poets café on that Monday morning after the inauguration. Hungry for a bite to eat, the men decided to give the café a try, perhaps not that familiar with the style of the café and its artwork, or the people who tend to frequent the establishment. As they entered, they would certainly have stuck out amongst the other people there, not least because they were still wearing Trump-supporting outfits.
Removing their hats
In fact, Jason White remembers telling his friends that maybe they should take off their red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, which had already been spotted by many people in the café, including Rosalynd herself, who was working a shift that day. They immediately put the hats away, perhaps out of respect or maybe embarrassment, but they didn’t want to cause a scene or draw any attention to themselves. As luck would have it, Rosalynd was working their table, and went to take their order.
Many people who are interested and involved in politics cannot help but discuss the election when they meet, especially when it’s to someone on the opposite side of the debate. Trump supporters might call liberal people naïve or foolish, while Clinton fans are known to be harsh to republicans about being selfish or uncaring. This is the foundation which caused such hostility in the lead up to the election itself. Now that it’s over, the tensions are in some ways greater than ever.
Research has shown that liberal democrats were even shown to end friendships with people who voted Trump, and it put a strain on the friendship the other way around as well. 59% of people think it’s stressful to talk to people who vote differently from yourself, compared to only 35% of people who think it’s interesting and informative. It’s clear that most people prefer to just stay away from those who vote differently, even if they lose friendships by it. Jason and his friends clearly agreed on political matters.
A crushing defeat
After Hilary Clinton lost the election, many supporters were literally moved to tears. They sat with friends and family, shocked and devastated by the result. They believed in Hilary so much, both women and men, and genuinely knew she was the right choice to make a change for our future. So seeing her lose was unbearable. We can be sure that if the election had come out the other way, Trump supporters would have been just as devastated.
Rosalynd at the Womens march
With these three men sitting in the café in their Trump apparel, so clearly in the city to celebrate the Republican win, and Rosalynd coming off her experience with other liberal supporters at the Women’s marches, these two were probably as different as two people could be, politically speaking. It makes sense to be afraid that there would be some unkind words, or even an altercation between the two of them, now that they were being thrown together.
A friendly conversation
But the conversation between them was immediately friendly, and White being a dentist, he even complimented Rosalynd’s smile! Rosalynd didn’t even think for a second to treat the customers any differently than she would anyone else who came through the doors of her café, and she chatted to them, smiling and taking their order in her usual way. The three men told Rosalynd they were from West Texas, and they spoke jovially to one another.
A startling gesture
After finishing his food, Jason White decided to do something unprecedented in Busboys and Poets. In an interview later, he remembers thinking about both the Inauguration and the Women’s Marches, and comparing them both as two examples of what it means to be American. How despite their obviously different politics, there was more about them that was similar than she might have thought. Looking around the cafe, at the artwork on the walls, he made a startling gesture to show Rosalynd exactly how he was feeling.
An amazing surprise
When Rosalynd saw the three men leave the café, she went to the table to take the money they had left, and saw something incredible. Jason had left her a message on the receipt, but more than that, he had also left an incredible tip. While most waitresses would be overjoyed to see 20% or even 25%, Jason had left a tip of over 600%. The bill was $72.60, and he had added a shocking $450.00 on top of that.
A beautiful sentiment
But it may have been the message on the receipt which meant even more to the 25 year old waitress. It must have taken a lot for a table of Trump supporting Republicans to see the bigger picture. During this election, there was a lot of hatred and intolerance coming from both sides, and many people who were once friends became enemies due to political preference. But the message they left of the receipt showed that hope was not lost for a country of people who can come together.
A much needed support
Rosalynd was touched by the money, as she was working two jobs as a waitress and a dancer to make sure that she could afford to pay her monthly bills. She was moving into a new apartment soon after this, and was genuinely being kept awake at night over her fears about covering the moving costs and making ends meet, as well as keeping involved in her social projects. $450 was an incredible step towards making that happen, which she never expected to make waiting on just the one table!
It would have taken Rosalynd dozens of extra shifts or extra work dancing to make that kind of money, and so she was really taken aback by the gesture, especially in the name of diversity. In the past, she had thought of Trump supporters as being a certain way, caring more about themselves perhaps, or not interested in helping people out. This might even have been the rhetoric which was spoken at times at the super liberal Busboys and Poets. This proved that she had been wrong, and she was ready to open her mind to think again.
Kindness above all else
Jason didn’t stay in the café to watch as Rosalynd found the tip and the note. He didn’t even tell his friends about what he had done. He didn’t ask for any media attention, and he didn’t expect any thanks. He simply wanted to show that despite their political and cultural differences, they could be kind to one another, and reach out in a human way to find a connection. He also had a reason for the amount of a tip he left.
Not a random amount
$450 was not a random amount, although it was certainly generous. He decided to leave $450 as a nod to Donald Trump himself, the 45th president of the United States, $10 for each of the presidents so far. He called it a symbolic gesture of everyone, both republicans and democrats, moving forward together in peace and community, no matter what political issues there might be between them, or how they might have voted in the election itself.
A surprising note
Aside from an enormously generous tip, the message that Rosalynd received on her receipt was heartwarming. It said: “We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people,” the note reads. “Not race. Not gender. Just American.” Jason finished the note with the endearment, “God Bless!”
True Trump supporter
Jason himself admits that he doesn’t agree with everything Trump says, and thinks that sometimes our president even speaks without thinking through what he is saying. But as a devout Christian, he also believes that Trump would manage to infuse America, and the government with a new mind set and much needed new leadership. He has been a Trump supporter since the beginning, and was unapologetically delighted with the result of the election.
Not letting ourselves be fooled
Sometimes, we might be fooled by the media attitude towards Republican supporters, which often portrays them as unfeeling or unkind, and not interested in helping others. Jason showed that this is an unfair and untrue stereotype. In his interview, he said “We have to think about being better Americans, we have to look into ourselves and how we treat one another,” he said. “If everyone did a little something to show respect…we can love one another.”
Rosalynd Harris was understandably speechless at both the generosity and the sentiment behind the receipt and the tip itself. “You automatically assume if someone supports Trump that they have ideas about you,” she said, “but [Jason was] more embracing than even some of my more liberal friends, and there was a real authenticity in our exchange.” This chance meeting has changed her feelings in a very real way.
“This definitely reshaped my perspective. Republican, Democrat, liberal are all subcategories to what we are experiencing,” she said. “It instils a lot of hope.” This was exactly what Jason White was hoping to achieve with his grand gesture and thoughtful words. “As I sat there I thought about the entire weekend and I thought I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me, but if most Americans have a preconceived perception about people then we’re never going to get better,” he said.
A huge problem
These preconceived perceptions might be exactly what caused a lot of the anger and violence we have seen around America since the election itself. One example is protests in Boston which resulted in eight people being arrested, and dozens of people on both sides of the political conversation being seen fighting, spitting, and shouting at one another. Racist slurs, as well as degrading comments were thrown without a second thought.
In fact, all over America, violence broke out after Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. In Berkley, the police stepped in to arrest 21 people, and more than 11 were injured in a Trump rally where both pro and anti-Trump attendees got violent. In California, ten people were arrested, while in Phoenix, the police had to step in and use tear gas when the scene got out of hand, and attendees lost control of themselves.
The worst of the violence
On inauguration day itself, in Franklin Square, just minutes from Capitol Hill where Trump was being sworn in, some of the worst violence broke out. Six police officers were injured as protesters threw bricks, set fires, and flung trash cans and other objects, all because they were upset at what democracy had chosen for them. Trump fans were shocked, claiming they would have taken their defeat better had it happened.
A small glimmer of light
However, amid all this chaos and upset, there were some examples of respect and understanding between the two sides. One example is the story of the woman at the Boston rally on August 19th 2017. The crowd of liberal anti-Trumpsters was getting out of hand, with anger and tension growing, and the amount of people there heavily leaning in the direction of pro-Clinton, and not feeling kind towards Trump supporters at all.
Standing up for what’s right
This woman decided to stand against the other liberals in the room, and help the Trump supporters make it out safely, so that no one got hurt, and no one got arrested either. Imani Williams is from Connecticut, and believes that this action, like the one between Jason and Rosalynd helps to change perceptions about both the left and the right. You know, I don’t believe in this right-wing narrative of the alt-left and how we are crazed and looking to get violent. What better way to show them they are wrong?”
Putting aside your differences
This idea of fighting the hatred between the sides with overwhelming love instead of anger and hate is not a new one. But perhaps it’s not shown often enough, as the vast majority of both sides doesn’t want to listen and understand, or simply put aside political differences to focus on the human beings underneath. In these frightening times, it is heart-warming to see stories which let this attitude shine through all the pain.
Love and respect
Many people have taken the time to attend protests and rallies with signs which preach love, rather than hate and fear against the so called ‘other side.’ What’s amazing is that you can’t even tell who they voted for or where their political allegiances lie. Instead, they have come out with slogans about love, hugs, kindness and respect, and are trying to cut through a lot of the anger and the noise with messages of looking out for one another.
The importance of this story
This is why this story about Jason White and Rosalynd Harris needs to get more attention. This is why it was reported by Washington Post and Fox News. This is why it got so much support from so many Republicans and Democrats alike, and why Busboys and Poets, as well as Rosalynd herself, wanted to make sure that the story got out into the public and could do its work to change opinions about the political divide.
We rise by lifting others
Busboys and Poets themselves tweeted the encounter between Jason and Rosalynd, hoping to encourage more of this kind of behavior, and encourage love and respect between people, even who are from different political spheres. “We rise, by lifting others” they wrote on the tweet, praising Jason for his kind act, and Rosalynd for approaching them with understanding and kindness in the first instance.
America needs more of this
Some of the tweets which were sent in reply, continue the outpouring of love and respect. @housemom1952 says “you only see hate when you look for it” which is exactly the sentiment that the two stars of our story were reflecting. @kdealaey replied, “What a great gesture. America needs more of this, and it desperately needs it now. Thanks for sharing.” Unfortunately, not everyone managed to enjoy this wonderful story without fighting back.
@cmconcepts replied, “You would NEVER see a Hilary supporter do this” creating a lot of anger on the vert thread where Busboys and Poets were trying to spread love. This encouraged a liberal response by @MD06071714 who said “You wouldn’t, because they wouldn’t leave a note making a big deal out of why they did it. Trumpanzee.” It’s such a shame that a post filled with so much light can be pulled back into division and name calling.
A heartening example
The more we can all try to understand one another, open dialogue about not just politics but all areas of life, and treat each other with kindness and respect, the better chance we have of solving many of the divisive problems within politics and the wider world. People exactly like Jason and Rosalynd are an incredibly heartening examples of exactly this, and are something we should all try to learn from and emulate.