CHICAGO – For years, Dorothy Tillman has been a leading crusader against racism in Chicago. But now the long-time city alderman is being called a racist herself.
Two waiters, who are white, have filed a $100,000 federal lawsuit against the landmark Palmer House Hilton, claiming that they were discriminated against because of something Tillman said.
According to the two plaintiffs, Tillman, who is black, told the hotel she wanted only black waiters at a banquet she held at the hotel in October. Tillman has held annual events for supporters since 1986.
After Tillman complained, the hotel asked the two waiters not to work the function.
"It is like reverse discrimination," waiter Michael Otte said. "To me, that is the way it was looked at. That is the way I looked at it."
Palmer House refused comment, saying it never makes statements about pending litigation.
Tillman says the plaintiffs don't have their facts straight. She says she never asked for an all-black wait staff at her banquet, but did ask for a diverse staff.
"Never have we requested only blacks be assigned to our events," she said.
On the night of the event, there wasn't a single black waiter, so Tillman asked a staff member for more blacks, not all blacks, as the lawsuit alleges.
"If I had walked in and said 'I don't want any whites, get them all out of here and get me some blacks,' that would be wrong," she said. "I would be the first to say that's wrong. That's not what I said."
Tillman said what she did wasn't the equivalent of a white patron asking for more white servers because whites are already well-represented.
"Being pro-black is not being racist," she said.
But these waiters argue otherwise. They say Dorothy Tillman's attempt to help blacks shouldn't come at their expense.