A police officer buys an Indigenous woman a meal in a random act of kindness and a “virtual” shit storm ensues.
It all started innocently enough.
It was our 21st wedding anniversary and my wife wanted to treat me to a new and original dining experience. We planned to have dinner, a few cocktails and some form of entertainment afterwards.
“New” and “original” was going to be a challenge.
We love to eat out and have dined at most of the tasty restaurants our City has to offer.
Enter Famena’s Famous Roti Curry – 295 Garry Street.
(My wife found a post about it on Instagram of all places.)
I’d never heard of the place, which is somewhat unusual considering I worked in downtown Winnipeg for over twenty-five (25) years.
Also unusual because I absolutely love roti.
As we walked up to the front door I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
It turns out Famena’s Restaurant brings new meaning to the expression, “Hole in the wall.”
At a trite 200 square feet, the restaurant is more emblematic of a modern water closet than a savoury eatery. In the 60’s the space housed a Salisbury House complete with the curved lunch counter and fourteen (14) iconic swivel stools. The decor has not changed much since the British invasion. To add to the charm, the breezeway behind the stools is crowded by beverage coolers, flats of drinks stacked six feet high and cardboard boxes containing who knows what.
If it hadn’t been for the delicious aromas leaking through the cracks in the doors I just might have walked away.
I’m glad I didn’t.
I couldn’t help but spy the plates of the many customers seated at the counter as I strolled past to take my seat. The portions were the first thing I noticed and I was comfortable knowing I wasn’t going to leave this place hungry.
The portions – man-sized.
The aromas – delectable, delicious, intoxicating.
I ordered my chicken roti with chick peas and waited patiently for my food.
That’s when our experience at the little diner became substantially more interesting.
As we were taking in the “Famena” experience, we spied two uniformed Winnipeg Police Officers walking into the restaurant with an Indigenous woman in their company. It was clear the woman’s life circumstances had not been all that kind to her. She appeared dishevelled, vulnerable, thin and was clearly a person in need.
It took a moment or two before we realized what was going on.
The veteran officer seemed intent on buying the woman something to eat.
(His intentions will ultimately be revealed – wait for it.)
It was one of those random acts of kindness you often read about but seldom witness.
“This is the kind of story that rarely gets told,” I said to my wife.
“Then tell it,” she replied.
She was right I thought, I should tell it.
I picked up my iPhone and approached the junior officer and asked him if I they would mind if I snapped a few photos.
His reply was polite but curt, “No thanks, we don’t want our pictures taken.”
I was disappointed, but I get it, I respected his wishes and returned to my seat.
Photo or not I decided to post something on social media about this seldom seen act of generosity.
Before making the post I found myself in a quandary of sorts.
Do I mention the fact the woman was Indigenous?
Would the story have the same impact if I don’t mention the woman’s race?
Would anyone care if the officer bought a non-Indigenous woman a meal?
All issues for contemplation.
Ultimately, I believed the woman’s race was an important part of the story.
There are a number of reasons…
It wasn’t so long ago Maclean’s magazine dubbed Winnipeg the most racist City in Canada.
The allegation was yet another kick in the groin for a beleaguered City often ranked number one in the Country for violent crimes that include homicide, robbery, sexual assault, break & enter, auto-theft and arson.
It doesn’t end there…
Police in Winnipeg are often accused of being indifferent when it comes to conducting investigations into crimes committed against Indigenous women. A ridiculous claim, easily disproved by hard data, but whole heartedly believed by many people from the Indigenous Community.
The seeds of mistrust have been insatiably sewn by certain members of main stream media who continue to race bait and undermine the WPS / Indigenous relationship.
Of course the woman’s race was relevant.
So I posted the story and I mentioned the woman’s race.
Within an hour the veteran officer shot me a text message and apologized for his rookie partner rebuking my request for a photograph.
He was amused I referred to him as a “young officer.”
(It turns out I knew the officer but wasn’t sure it was him at the time of the incident.)
The next morning I expanded on my original post and published a blurb on The Police Insider FB page.
That’s when it all started.
The “virtual’ shit storm.
When I looked at the statistics associated with the post I was flabbergasted.
- 233,693 people reached and still climbing
- 67,764 post clicks
- 10,455 reactions, comments, shares
- 7,316 likes
- 683 comments
These metrics were not “normal.”
As I reviewed the numbers I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to make this post go viral.
It didn’t take long to solve the puzzle.
Enter Facebook protagonist Rick Ammazzini…
Rick dropped the very first comment on the story.
Things kind of got crazy after that.
I immediately got the joke.
Not everyone did.
Rick was being sarcastic and facetious with his retort.
His motive, while not clear, may have been inspired by what many feel is the new age of hyper-political correctness.
More on that later…
Rick was attacked and accused of being a racist.
He wasn’t the only one that was attacked.
I was criticized for mentioning the woman’s race and was surprisingly accused of fabricating the story to promote the restaurant. 🙄
Many of the reactions were emotional, confrontational, hostile and angry.
That told me something.
It told me we need to evolve in our discussions about race.
We are living in a strange time.
A time when the left and the right have never been further apart.
We seem to be living in a cultural revolution that has no apparent limits or boundaries.
A time when the obliteration of history, historical figures and monuments is being sold as some type of hyper-politically correct cultural evolution.
Many wonder where the line gets drawn.
Do we need to dynamite Mount Rushmore because Washington and Jefferson were slave owners?
Do we need to remove the name of Sir John A. Macdonald from our schools?
Some think we should.
Indigenous Senator Murray Sinclair rejects the idea we need to obliterate history, tear down monuments or re-name schools.
“The problem I have with the overall approach to tearing down statues and buildings is that is counterproductive to reconciliation because it almost smacks of revenge or smacks as acts of anger, but in reality, what we are trying to do is we are trying to create more balance in the relationship,” Sinclair said in a recent interview with the Canadian Press.
“It’s not about taking names off buildings, it’s about whether we can find a way to put Indigenous names on buildings,” he continued.
I prefer Senator Sinclair’s approach.
Let us not revise history, lets recognize it, honour it, learn from it and evolve as a people.
That brings me back to the unwitting Police Officer at the centre of the tragic debate.
What were his intentions when he reached into his pocket to buy that meal?
To the his credit, it was more than just a random act of kindness.
“I was just trying to help someone out, and at the same time, teach one of the new guys a different approach,” the officer said.
His response – beautiful in its simplicity.
It wasn’t about race after all.
It was about human decency, caring and leadership.
The kind of story I like to tell.
What they said?
At the risk of adding credence to the conspiracy theorist who believe we are in the business of fabricating stories to advertise for restaurants, we have to mention the roti at Famenas was the absolute best we have ever had the pleasure of eating.
We are sure to become regular customers.