McMinnville’s La Rambla restaurant on Third Street announced last night they would require indoor diners to be vaccinated when they reopen Friday August 20. They will continue to offer outdoor seating to all. The decision has drawn lots of support from locals and a vocal minority in staunch opposition to what they perceive as discrimination or segregation. Some continuing to compare this to Jim Crow era laws and policies.

Let’s talk about discrimination.

In the US there are laws barring discrimination on the basis of:

  • national origin
  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • disability
  • sex
  • familial status

That’s it. Most of these things are immutable attributes of a person. Two of those items are choices: religion and familial status.

Getting a Covid-19 vaccination (where eligible) is a choice.

You may be thinking, cool. I qualify for a vaccine exemption for religious reasons. Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. In the US there appear to be only two major religions that *may* discourage vaccinations, but until and unless those churches are willing to put into writing their objection to vaccination you’ll have a hard time proving vaccination refusal as a tenet of your religion.

What about “segregation”?

Maybe you’re not old enough to remember but before we understood the impact secondhand smoke had on public health, smoking was allowed in restaurants, bars, and even planes! To help mitigate the risk of secondhand smoke on others separate smoking and non-smoking sections were offered. But as with anything airborne, like smoke and vapor that didn’t actually do much to protect the people in those locations, especially the workers. According to a study released in 1993 restaurant servers had a 50-90% higher risk of developing lung cancer due to the high concentration of tobacco in their workplaces.

Today smoking in bars, restaurants, planes, and most workplaces is banned in 30 states and hundreds of cities across the country. Smoking is a great example of a behavior, or a choice that some people make which has an impact on the health of the people around them.

La Rambla is one business doing their part in an effort to mitigate the ongoing risk to public health.

Using words like segregation and discrimination to describe the actions of a private business asking you to be vaccinated or to sit in a specific area is misguided at best, but feels pretty racist at worst when comparing a choice whether to vaccinate or not to the immutability of black and brown skin when something inconveniences you.

Once upon a time.

kellie peterson