I was in the mood for a ham sandwich the other day so I walked around the corner to my neighborhood market to pick up some provisions.
I snagged a shopping cart with three workable wheels and maneuvered my way through the store humming along to a Muzak menagerie of Mr. Mister and Lionel Richie songs. I stopped for a brief moment in the produce aisle to admire a pair of hipsters as they harmonized to "Say You, Say Me."
Anyway, after selecting a deli ham, I dropped by condiments aisle to get a jar of spicy mustard along with some bread & butter pickles.
I was about check out when I suddenly remembered that I needed some cheese.
So I made a beeline for the dairy aisle and that's when I made a startling discovery. I brought my three-wheeled shopping cart to a screeching halt. I came face to face with a massive sign bearing giant letters.
It read: "HISPANIC CHEESE."
I stared at the display for quite some time. I found myself drifting into an imaginary conversation with a store clerk...
"Do you need some help, sir?"
"Yes. Could you tell me where you keep the Caucasian cheese?"
"I'm sorry, sir but we don't carry Caucasian cheese – although, we do have a rather nice selection of white cheddars."
I was tempted to purchase some "Hispanic" cheese, but I feared retribution at the checkout counter. What if the clerk confronted me about trying to purchase a cheese that was contrary to my ethnicity?
"Sir, I'm afraid you've violated our tolerance and diversity regulations," I imagined the clerk saying. "It's apparent that Hispanic cheese is nacho cheese."
So to be safe, I decided to purchase American cheese (which is allowed provided you have at least two forms of government identification).
I found the entire episode a bit disconcerting. When did they start segregating the dairy products?
Seeing how President Obama ushered the nation into a post-racial age, you'd think grocery stores would be a bit more sensitive to that kind of thing.
Why single out the Hispanic cheeses?
What about the Italians or the French?
What's next? Will grocery stores separate American cabbage from Bok Choy? Will Basmati rice be allowed to share shelf space with Uncle Ben's?
Oh, how my taste buds weep for the less fortunate cheese among us.
I recall that delightful song from church days gone by. "Jesus loves the little cheeses, all the cheeses of the world. Swiss and Cheddar, stinky, too. If He loved them, so should you. Jesus loves the little cheeses of the world."
I hold this truth to be self evident – that all curds are created equal, that they are endowed by their cheese maker with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of a Ritz cracker.
I dream of a day when cheese is not judged by its country of origin but by the content of its butterfat – be it Gouda or Velveeta.
Intolerance is bad for business no matter how you bag it. And in my estimation the only thing worse than intolerance is lactose intolerance.