Eating While Black

Damon Young talks about a particular type of “race neurosis” that makes it difficult to see actions as separate from the color of his skin. 

Three months ago, I moved into a townhouse complex in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh; a unique and somewhat under the radar community— I know a couple lifelong Pittsburghers who were completely unaware that Point Breeze even existed before I moved there — that basically serves as a conduit separating the tony Squirrel Hill and Shadyside neighborhoods from the decidedly more “urban” Homewood and Wilkinsburg.

Out of my 30 or so new neighbors, I’d estimate that 80% of them are the people Christian Lander had in mind when thinking up Stuff White People Like — generally friendly and well-intentioned gentrificationites whose love for Trader Joe’s, Priuses, and jogging are only exceeded by the near pathological infatuation they have for dogs. (Not just their dogs, but every dog.)

Yet, there was one neighbor who didn’t share this congeniality; a man who’d refuse to make eye contact with me and might reluctantly mumble a response if you said “Good morning” to him. To confound things even further, he was my next-door neighbor, so these situations occurred often.

There was even one notable time where he happened to be getting home from work while my girlfriend and I were grilling steaks. Now, as anyone who’s ever lived, well, anywhere knows, you’re practically obligated to say something when you walk past a neighbor grilling food. It could be weather-related “Sure is a great day to break out the grill,” food-related “Smells good,” lemming-related “I think I’m going to grill tonight myself,” or even slightly creepy “Man, that smell reminds me of my dead grandma,” but the point is that it’s near impossible not to say anything.

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Anyway, as we sat there amused that the asshole neighbor would be forced to walk past us and anticipating what he’d say, he decided to play his trump card and just stay in his car so he wouldn’t have to walk past and speak. It was actually quite entertaining watching him fake fumble around in his car, pretending to feverishly look for something. After five or so minutes of playing this progressively weird game of cat and gentrified mouse, we went back inside to get some water and some seasoning for the steaks. We may have been inside for 45 seconds, but in that time the neighbor managed to “find” whatever he was looking for and sprint into his house.

Now, since this is a story about race, you’re probably waiting for the big reveal. Maybe something “Hollywood” like him moving out soon after because he couldn’t take living next to black people or me finding out that he was a founding member of the Point Breeze chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. I hate to disappoint, but neither occurred. He’s still my neighbor. And, as far as I know, he doesn’t belong to the Klan. In fact, he’s not a racist asshole or even just an asshole. After observing his interactions with other neighbors, I learned that he’s just very shy and socially awkward, a fact that tells you everything you need to know about the relationship (many) black people have with race in today’s America.

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The overt and soul-crippling racism that plagued our parents and grandparents isn’t nearly as prominent today. Anyone who’d argue otherwise is a fool. But, this history has resulted in a collective neurosis whose symptoms are similar to how dealing with a crazy girlfriend or boyfriend for too long starts to make you crazy as well. You start hacking into their email account just to make sure they haven’t hacked into yours again. They accuse you of lying so much that you start to wonder “Wait, am I sure that happened? Did I really go to work today, or did I spend the entire day with my mistress?”

From a race perspective, a manifestation of this mindset is you wondering if all things that happen to you are somehow related to you being black; a too heightened racial awareness that makes it increasingly difficult to discern between legitimate racism and race-based discrimination — both of which definitely still exist — and mere happenstance.

If a new neighbor isn’t personable, he’s suspected of being racist instead of just shy. Your blackness decides your career path instead of your competence. Any non-black staunch Obama critic isn’t really all that concerned with his policies, and the fact that your last name starts with Y definitely isn’t the reason why your high school physics teacher places you in the back of the classroom. Positives aren’t immune either, as you begin to wonder if you’re legitimately smart and talented or just smart and talented compared to what society expects of you.

“And, in a truly peculiar and truly sad turn of events, this neurosis has a way of affecting the way you interact with others; occasionally projecting your psychosis on to them. It makes you hesitate to help an elderly woman struggling with her bags at the supermarket because you’re aware that she might think you’re trying to rob her.”

And, in a truly peculiar and truly sad turn of events, this neurosis has a way of affecting the way you interact with others; occasionally projecting your psychosis on to them. It makes you hesitate to help an elderly woman struggling with her bags at the supermarket because you’re aware that she might think you’re trying to rob her. It encourages you to create split personas — the “real” you and the work you — because you (rightly and safely) assume that the real you may not be completely palatable to the sensibilities of your co-workers and superiors.

Making this even worse is the patronizing insistence of (many) non-blacks that, since we’re not getting lynched in mass or legally discriminated against anymore, the neurosis is largely psychosomatic. Keeping the crazy girlfriend analogy in mind, this is akin to her throwing silverware at you at least once a day everyday for a week straight, and then feigning not to understand why you braced yourself when she picked up a fork at dinner today.

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You know, if a person really wants to have a compressed (but eerily complete) understanding of race in America in general and this neurosis in particular, they’d have to look no further than the series of behaviors that contribute to Eating While Black (“EWB”) — a phenomenon that occurs when black people attend restaurants.

Now, one of the stereotypes about us is that, regardless of social class, we’re notoriously bad tippers. In fact, not only are we bad tippers, we’re generally unkind to waiters and waitresses in general. Whether this stereotype is true or not is debatable, but it’s not hard to understand how it could be. Just 40 years ago there were still places in the country that were legally allowed to bar black people from dining there, and there still are many restaurant managers and workers who cringe when seeing one of us enter their establishment and generally treat us like persona non grata while we’re there. Basically, we might be shitty customers because we have a very long history of receiving shitty service.

Today, though, the shitty customer stereotype accounts for the shitty service we generally receive just as much as (if not more than) actual racism does. If my 20 year-old server at Applebee’s is lax because I’m black, maybe she’s racist, and maybe she’s just aware that there’s a good chance I’m not going to tip her well, and it’s human nature and practical for her to focus more energy on other customers.

But, why is this —  “there’s a good chance I’m not going to tip her well”  — true? Because I usually get bad service, and her reflexive apathy — her reaction to my reaction to being black in America — will just ensure that the circle of neurosis will continue.

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More articles On Race:

On Race

White Boy in a Black Land

Black Boy in a White Land

‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’

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About Damon Young

Pittsburgh native Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) is the co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com. Their first book Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime is available at Amazon.com

Comments

  1. Michael Lynn of Cornell has done work on the tipping question as it pertains to race.

    http://tippingresearch.com/uploads/CQ10RaceDiff1_12_10__REV.pdf

    Lynn found that blacks tip white servers and black servers worse overall than patrons of other races. So that takes the explanation that black patrons think that any slip up on the server/restaurant’s part is due to race. Even controlling for socioeconomic factors, blacks tip worse than other races too. Lynn finds that black people are unaware of prevailing tipping norms which explains the disparity.

    But I should add my own experience into the mix here. I’ve been a waiter for 7 years at a second-tier Italian restaurant. In my experience, black do tip worse. Yes, white servers cringe when they see black people being seated at their tables. But the same is true of black servers as well. This has much less to do with the amount of the tip one is expected to receive though.

    These are all generalities – not all black people are like this. But racial differences in restaurant behavior are noticable. Black people tend to be more needy, pickier, and quick to anger. They take much longer to order their food. We call it “being ran”. Many servers get the feeling that black patrons are asking for extra things – napkins, ranch dressing, extra sauce – just to put us to work. They seem much less understanding about your time constraints and your need to take care of your other patrons. There seems to be, among blacks more than other races, a mentality of “I want it now”. And while the “get shit for free” mentality transcends race, blacks tend to hold it more than other races of people.

    I do relatively well with black patrons; I’ve worked the job long enough to have learned how to anticipate blacks’ needs. My experiences aren’t as bad as some of my co-workers, but they are still well below the “average” i.e. white tip percentage.

    • The Wet One says:

      Do you think, as the author suggested, that this is a lingering historical effect?

      If not, why not?

      • I had a good response to this question but GMP ate it (and didn’t fucking tip either).

        I think it’s plausible that it all stems from historical discrimination, but I think that has morphed into something else. Basically, the issue for servers isn’t that we get subpar tips from black people in general. It’s that we have to work harder for that crappy tip. This is, in essence, a free-ride on the other patrons. They suffer worse service because black patrons tend to be more needy. They usually aren’t in any hurry to order. The pacing of the meal is thrown off by a lot of demands, questions, changes, disorganization. Basically, they just want more for less. This applies to the food, drinks, and service. But as Lynn found in his research, this isn’t just a result of lower income and such.

        My personal belief is that black people tend to be more wary of businesses and therefore have less of a problem asking for extras. But they’ve also developed a sort of entitlement, and they’ve also learned through their parents and their peers that using the “scary black” attitude will get them served quicker.

        So overall I don’t think this is a lingering historical effect because black people receive better service compared to what they tip than do other patrons. Servers may not like to wait on blacks as readily as other races, but they do it with a smile because they know that the patron has a quicker trigger than others. Among servers it seems to be more of an attitude of “just give them what they want and get them out of here, but do it with a smile because they’re looking for something to complain about.”

        • “They suffer worse service because black patrons tend to be more needy. They usually aren’t in any hurry to order. The pacing of the meal is thrown off by a lot of demands, questions, changes, disorganization. Basically, they just want more for less. This applies to the food, drinks, and service. But as Lynn found in his research, this isn’t just a result of lower income and such.

          My personal belief is that black people tend to be more wary of businesses and therefore have less of a problem asking for extras. But they’ve also developed a sort of entitlement, and they’ve also learned through their parents and their peers that using the “scary black” attitude will get them served quicker.”

          Couldn’t this also be interpreted, though, as while others might be too intimidated or polite to speak up when the service isn’t on point, black people are the only ones who actually make servers work for the tip? I mean, don’t customers have a right to ask for extras and ask questions? I’m playing the Devil’s advocate here (well, partially), but your definition of “entitled” sounds dangerously close to “uppity”

          • Damon,

            Here’s just an example of one instance I recently encountered. I’m taking care of three of my tables – about to pass out drinks to one of them. My partner’s table (the person I share a “zone” with) had a table of 6 black women along with two other tables. *As I’m speaking* to my table, the black woman hollers at me to tell me that her server didn’t bring extra dressing. I go back to tell the server who is gathering all of the stuff for all of her tables. The server took a couple of minutes to get the dressing because she had other tables to take care of. But the black woman sat there staring – angry – waiting for her dressing. This is a fine example of something servers often encounter with black patrons compared to those of other races. I mean, first, the lady was taking advantage of the service provided for everyone else in that room. She didn’t really care about jumping ahead of everyone else on the list of priorities, and she used her loudness, rudeness, and bulging eyeball stare down to get her way.

            Good for her I guess. She got what she wanted, but I think that’s a bad way to go about it. People have time constraints, and they can only do so much. The thing is that blacks more than other races ask for a lot of stuff (run the server) and then cop attitudes when it isn’t right there when they want it.

            It is my belief that they create their own beef (didn’t mean to rhyme that). If you go into a place of business looking for instances of mistreatment or discrimination you will surely find them. If a person has that mentality going in, then why go to a restaurant? Servers don’t have time to discriminate because we know that women like the one I mentioned will start screaming real fast if you don’t get them their ranch dressing.

    • “There seems to be, among blacks more than other races, a mentality of “I want it now”. And while the “get shit for free” mentality transcends race, blacks tend to hold it more than other races of people.”

      Again, though, you could also argue that this mindset is a reaction to this…

      “Yes, white servers cringe when they see black people being seated at their tables”

      As someone pointed out today in a conversation about this article on Facebook, black people who do sense this unwelcome feeling tend to have two completely reactions to it

      1. Be excessively friendly and excessively generous with the tip because A) They feel bad when witnessing workers get shafted by other blacks, and B) They want to make sure you don’t see them as “one of those kinds” of black people

      2. Be an asshole

    • Michelle J. says:

      As much as I hate to admit it, I too subscribed to the notion that blacks were the worst tippers when I waited tables for 7 years in Atlanta. When I first began waiting tables, I’d get so angry that nobody would want to take the table of black folk, specifically black women. I’d jump at the chance to prove “them” wrong, that the table of women who looked like me wouldn’t not be the terrors that everyone assumed. However, more often than not, I was wrong. It quickly became apparent that I’d work harder, for much less on those tables, whereas I could have a table of Others, not always give the best service, and get considerably more. While thinking back, I realized that my family (of black women) also gave in to this. We’d always need extra this, extra that, and I distinctly recall leaving nothing but a shiny, crisp dollar bill on the table. Don’t get me wrong. Not saying these things ALWAYS applied but more often than not, they did. It got to the point that I became the overcompensater when I’d go out to eat, overtipping and even making excuses for horrible service. My friends hated going out to eat with me because I’d always make a big deal about tipping. I could make excuses now about how I wasn’t necessarily waiting tables at the most upscale establishments (Cheesecake Factory and Houlihan’s weren’t exactly high brow), however I honestly think the underlying fact is that, as someone mentioned, some of us don’t always know proper tipping etiquette and standards. Years later and far removed from the service industry, I still try to keep in mind the factors that could make for subpar service (short staff, shift change, backed up kitchen), however if service is bad, then it just is bad, and no longer feel the need to overcompensate.

      • Do you think it’s just not knowing proper etiquette standards, or something more?

        • Michelle J. says:

          I’d like to hope it’s not knowing proper etiquette standards across the board, but can only speak for my family. I know that when I started waiting tables and told my mom that we only made $2.25 /hour in addition to tips, she was blown away. She assumed that servers at least made the national level of minimum wage and then got to keep the tips on top of that. I know I was also blown away myself. I think that many are under the assumption that minimum wage plus tips is the actual take home pay.

          As far as my family’s need to ask for endless ramekins of extra ranch and buffalo sauce, I have no clue or ideas what spawns that lol.

    • CandidCutie says:

      I meant to post this here –

      I am the other phenomenon – the over tipper. We understand the business of restaurants and are aware of the tipping disparity and through generosity, we hope to assuage the the collective shame. Respectfully disagreeing the author on one point, there are many people who understand the modern nuances and language race, and are not hobbled by paranoia. Having the ability to discern logic in a business practice does not lessen its sting when you are the recipient of the disappointed look from the waiter, or inattentiveness. I always tip twenty percent regardless and have suffered through some really poor service.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Damon!

    American race relations fascinate me, in great part because though I’m White, my brother is predominantly Black. He was adopted as a baby, and though my parents speak fluent Brazilian Portuguese (he is from Brazil), take him back to Brazil, and have tried to emphasize a Black Brazilian identity, to the average person in America, he looks like a typical 17-year-old Black kid. This terrifies me because I don’t think he has this inherent neurosis you mention, and while that’s a good thing in a lot of ways, it can be a very bad thing, too, due to the prejudices that DO still exist. I don’t know how to temper this fear I have that he’s going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or have his intentions misconstrued and have him be hurt – physically, emotionally, or socially – because he doesn’t understand how to play the American race game.

    Now on the flip side of that, having spent a large portion of my life outside the States (in areas where I was the minority), having a Black brother, and having many friends/boyfriends who are/were Black, I find myself being overly friendly toward Black people. I say overly friendly because though I’m generally a friendly person, I know this impulse stems in part from the knowledge that most White people in America are uncomfortable around Black people, so whenever I’m in the States, it’s as if I need to smile at every Black person to let them know not all White people think bad things. It’s not a racist impulse, but it’s a because-of-race impulse, and that’s a strange thing to categorize and discuss.

    Thoughts on either of these comments?

    Also, though I was only a waitress for a year, I was surprised to hear you write that Blacks are thought to be bad tippers. I had no idea. Maybe my friendly nature got me an extra buck? :-)

    • Traci J. says:

      Thanks Broche you just helped explain the uncomfortable awkwardness I feel on occasion when I go out and about in Portland in a neighborhood that can aptly be described EXACTLY like Damon’s vision of Point Breeze: “generally friendly and well-intentioned gentrificationites whose love for Trader Joe’s, Priuses, and jogging are only exceeded by the near pathological infatuation they have for dogs. (Not just their dogs, but every dog.)” Very often, I get the sense that they’re trying to make up for black expectations of white racism and prejudice. I can just be walking down the street casually minding my own business and the random older white woman will come up that just smiles EXTRA HARD at me as she passes. Most of the time I walk away thinking: “What the eff was she smiling so hard at???” Your explanation helps me make sense of it: “It’s not a racist impulse, but it’s a because-of-race impulse, and that’s a strange thing to categorize and discuss.” It still unnerving though cause its hard to shake the feeling that it does have something to do with my skin color…

      But in a similar way, I used to feel equally awkward about my American-ness overseas. When I did study abroad in London, I got the strange feeling that all eyes were on me while riding the Tube once I opened my mouth and my accent gave way to the unfriendly fact that I was American. WIth that said, I think this race neurosis is just a sub-category of a generalized phenomenon of assuming about other people assumptions, prejudging about other people’s prejudices. Women do it to each other ALL the time, go to the club, look across the room and you see what you think is somebody staring you up and down, you think, “Is that b*tch looking at me crazy?” I think for humans, in our social situations, it can be cyclically irrational but it also has to be some kind of biological drive to use our instincts to sense the vibe and motive of the Other: is this prey or predator? And are their intentions to eat me for dinner?

      • “I think for humans, in our social situations, it can be cyclically irrational but it also has to be some kind of biological drive to use our instincts to sense the vibe and motive of the Other: is this prey or predator? And are their intentions to eat me for dinner?”

        interesting point, especially when you remember that prejudice is basically just us trying to protect ourselves from the unknown.

    • “This terrifies me because I don’t think he has this inherent neurosis you mention, and while that’s a good thing in a lot of ways, it can be a very bad thing, too, due to the prejudices that DO still exist”

      thats the thing: the neurosis isn’t inherent. it’s definitely a learned behavior, and kids who either have been lucky enough to not really experience any race-related discomfort or just haven’t received that , for lack of a better term, “baggage” from their parents probably won’t develop it

  3. I have found that if I start with the assumption that most people I meet are ignorant or idiots, I’m rarely disappointed or surprised by their behavior. In turn, everyone always find me to be cold and aloof unless they make an effort to interact with me. It is a system that seems to work well.

  4. My strategy is that of resolution: I will be as nice as people will possibly let me be, white or black. I tip fairly well even for a basic level of service, because I’ll not have someone making less than minimum wage on my watch; I just factor it is as part of the cost of eating out, and will make the tip higher for exceptional servers with good attitudes.

    I live in a pretty friendly part of the country, socially, and I extend that friendliness to everyone. It’s not without ulterior motive — I secretly hope that it will catch on. I hope people will end up feeling good enough that they pass it on, and will want to treat others exceptionally, even if they feel they may not get it back to an “acceptable” degree.

    It costs me nothing to be nice, and when it DOES cost something, it’s often an amount I can happily live without. It may not accomplish much, but it’s what I can do.

  5. B. Carroll says:

    Very good write up….interesting that these formulated barriers that we put between ourselves and others are often done as preemptive strikes in preparation for new obstacles. — And sometimes in that process we create more obstacles for ourselves. Pride takes too many losses to create a dynasty but that cost is worth it to those who are battle tested.

    As far as tipping goes — when there is something in it for someone to tip well they typically do it. Blacks have no problem tipping barbers that they know they will go back to and so forth. There is a convenience to not tipping well when there is no accountability — but there is also that same convenience for workers to work harder for customers that they know will continue to come back. The beauty of a tip is that it is given when the job is done….so that should be motivation enough for any cash driven business to do their best on a consistent basis.

    • “Blacks have no problem tipping barbers that they know they will go back to and so forth.”

      you make a good point about accountability. i mean, you’re not going to shaft the dude who’s in charge of how your line-up looks. it makes sense that we’d be more willing to tip a person we know we’re going to see again. also, i can’t help but mention that this plays into the stereotype that it’s actually black women, not black people in general, that tend to be the worst tippers

  6. GMP, I had a long ass response typed out ready to submit but your stupid website ate it by deciding to refresh. Apparently you had to load another advert for “Poise Hourglass Shape Pads” down at the bottom of the page. Ridiculous. First, perhaps you should be worried that Good Men Project is attracting a demographic that is in the market for Poise pads. Second, listen to your freaking customers. How many times do folks have to state their case before you decide to do something about it?

  7. I experience race neurosis in a similar manner but more personal context. Sometimes I think this neurosis also takes a chip at my self-esteem. As the only black person in my neuroscience program of over 80 PhD students, I often question if I was accepted into the program because I am black and whether others in my program think that I am there because I am black. I have to remind myself daily that I deserve to be there just like the next person. In actuality I scored high on all my grad school entrance exams, had a high undergrad GPA, along with really great letter of recommendation. So why wouldn’t I be there? Still I can’t help but worry about my race every time I asked a question about my work or how I got into neuroscience. I always wonder if other students in programs get the same treatment. While I am highly qualified to conduct the research that I conduct, I have allowed this neurosis to eat away at my self-esteem and my value as a scientist in the neuroscience community. This is the only environment/context where I actually feel this neurosis.
    When it comes to the general public, I’ve never not help someone because I think they’ll be afraid that I want to rob them or do harm. As a black woman, I think some of the neurosis that black men feel are gender specific within the black culture.

    • So you have a neuroscience neurosis? (Sorry, couldn’t resist) Seriously though, it’s interesting how we — even when we’re shown proof that we’re talented and adept — still occasionally feel as if we might be tokens.

    • My friends and I discuss this token question on occasion. As a woman, my reaction to it is, Use whatever weapon you have in your arsenal. I don’t meant this to sound shallow, but if I know I can lift my suitcase but the man behind me in line wants to lift it up onto the bus for me, fine. I apply that same logic to being accepted into various undergraduate and grad programs – if some part of me, White, female, Jewish, gay, puts my application over the top, I’ll take any advantage I can get because there are at least 100+ other people out there applying for the same opportunities I am. In the long run, it is up to you to make the most of the opportunity that is given to you for whatever reason. As you mention, you know you deserved it due to your actual qualifications. So if your skin color was a tipping point, does that really devalue the work you’re currently doing?

  8. As a direct response to this post, I go beyond when it comes to tipping just to make up for those poor black tippers. When out with groups of people, I always try to stress the importance of tipping. Sometimes I think people don’t tip out of ignorance and not just that they are being cheap.

  9. CandidCutie says:

    I am the other phenomenon – the over tipper. We understand the business of restaurants and are aware of the tipping disparity and through generosity, we hope to assuage the the collective shame. Respectfully disagreeing the author on one point, there are many people who understand the modern nuances and language race, and are not hobbled by paranoia. Having the ability to discern logic in a business practice does not lessen its sting when you are the recipient of the disappointed look from the waiter, or inattentiveness. I always tip twenty percent regardless and have suffered through some really poor service.

  10. Ashley J. says:

    “…the series of behaviors that contribute to Eating While Black (“EWB”) — a phenomenon that occurs when black people attend restaurants.” Phenomenon…really? Don’t know about that…you’d think there’s going to be a ‘CNN Presents’ feature on this. Not so much.

    In all fairness, I’d suspect that many folks — like me — try to associate people who know how to conduct themselves when the check comes. Nothing more embarrassing and trifling than when someone in the ‘black dinner group’ shorts their part of the meal + the gratuity, and leaves everyone looking around for the culprit like a ridiculous game of Black People’s Clue™.

    Professor Plum did it at the dinner table, w/ the empty wallet.

    But seriously, the issue of race is now more prevalent than ever, for any number of reasons (the White House, Beyoncé-palooza, etc.) — but there’s still a section of people who’ll want little to do with other with whom they don’t look like, or share a culture. You know who they are — they elected the people who just f***** up the U.S. credit rating.

    More importantly, just know that while it remains pretty hard to change someone actions, you can influence their opinions — and it’s done best by taking care of YOUR OWN house.

  11. I make sure I am very polite and gracious to waitstaff at restaurants and I always tip well because I am trying to crush stereotypes related to Black people. However, if I get bad service, I always let the manager know since I didn’t let my tip reflect it. Everything stated in the article is true and a sad reminder of the lasting effects of years of racism, discrimination, and oppression.

    • Why not let your tip reflect the poor service but save the words to the manager? People complain about everything in restaurants. American consumers are an entitled class. What you’re complaining about, really, is that all of the server’s other tables had special needs (because they’re right, of course) which takes time away from your specific needs. Yes, if you are aware of the server slacking off or talking on their phone, that is unacceptable. But sometimes we just get “in the weeds” and things slow down.

  12. So, I’m surfing around my favorite basketball blogs this afternoon and I happen to find this:

    http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/08/06/is-it-bad-if-lebron-james-dwyane-wade-carmelo-anthony-and-chris-paul-dont-tip/

    • Michelle J says:

      sad and timely. however, i think that speaks more to the fact that they are major entitled assholes who just don’t know how to act in public, period.

    • On the flip side i worked with a guy who had waited tables at Hard Rock Cafe in NYC. He waited on a party of Ja Rule and his entourage. They ordered Cristal etc, and left a $3,000 tip. Reportedly.

      This shows the reverse of the same treatment of the concept of tipping as Lebron or your average non-tipping black patron. The tip isn’t considered to be baked into the pie, if you will. Ja Rule probably didn’t leave a faaaaaat ass tip because he wanted to reward the servers or because he thought they deserved it. The tip was probably just a one-off ploy or whatever that reaffirmed his status. Which I’m not dinging him for. But I think even the fat tip of guys like Ja Rule comes from the same place as the crappy tips left by Lebron et al. It is seperated from it’s use as a form of wage payment for services rendered.

      The system is a little ridiculous, but I think it is on patrons to – when they opt into the system by showing up at a restaurant – follow ettiquette and tipping standards.

  13. Anonymous Male says:

    I worked for a while in food service and do remember a hush-hush stereotype that black customers were worse tippers than white customers. Some thoughts on the whole “bad tippers” stereotype:

    There could be a little “confirmation bias” here in people’s experiences. If I expect a group of people to be bad tippers, then any time any one of “them” stiffed me would totally confirm my bias, while I wasn’t really paying attention to any comparison group. And, if any of them tipped well, then he must have been a rare exception. Any simple-minded approach can always find some piece of truth to a stereotype even if the piece is not a representative sampling.

    I wonder if there is any correlation to the kind of job the customer has. Do people who work for tips give better tips than those who don’t? I suspect so. Maybe blacks are less likely than whites to work in jobs that earn tips, but I have no idea if that’s true. I would be really, really curious to know if the race of the server makes a difference in the size of a tip, if at all.

    In my experience, by far the worst tipping group is 18-22 year olds, but that is based on being a pizza delivery driver for a few years in a college town, so maybe other sectors are different. A few times I even heard (white) college kids speak proudly of stiffing me, as a source of (possibly stoned) amusement.

    I’m not really one of those “it’s always about class” people, but I suspect that populations that make less money tip less. I would guess that one of the biggest factors in tipping is how much money the person has in the first place, which maybe translates into cutting corners, which maybe translates into smaller tips.

  14. Blacks as a group are entitled in part because they are constantly told they are victims and nothing is their fault so they behave with a chip on their should, especially toward white people, who many blacks have a deep-seated hatred for (as exemplified by the black on white flash mob attacks that have occurred in several American cities this summer). Not tipping is a way to get back at whitey and blacks know they can always pull the race card. That’s the bottom line. When I was in college and started waiting tables I always gave better service (at first) to blacks because I was then a white liberal who felt guilty about past oppression. The tips sucked, they complained a hell of a lot more, and on average had more problems with the meal far out of proportion to their attendance at the restaurant. One day, ironically, when I got a bad tip from a black patron, one of my co-workers, who was black, laughed and told me not to worry, his fellow blacks didn’t tip him well either.

    Damon, you make a comment at the end that is only half right. You say that the white waitresses apathy will only make the cycle continue. Partly correct. But black people’s lack of proper tipping etiquette will also make the neurosis continue as well. For my part, if I were waiting tables today (and I stopped when I graduate college), I would give just as good a service to blacks as to whites provided their was no opportunity costs. If there were only a few patrons and my section wasn’t busy, I would cater to their every whim. If it was crowded and I was running back and forth to my station to take care of a full house, I wouldn’t care about giving bad service to black people for the simple fact that doing so was going to cost me money due to the fact that time I could spend on customers who tip will would provided they received excellent service would be wasted on my black customers. And before you say everyone deserves excellent service (you’re right) the fact is that restaurants are not always staffed in a manner to do so, in which case your problem is with management and not the server. Sorry dude, but economics and incentive and the allocation of scarce resources wins out every time when the individuals have a choice.

    And so you know, even your crappy service is better than you’ll find abroad. I’ve spent most of the last ten years of my life living abroad in countries where tipping is not part of the culture and where businesses are not service-oriented and the services SUCKS!

    Best,
    The Dude

  15. Did you know that Point Breeze used to be Homewood too? I wish I could recall the name of the book that it as in – some book on local history.

  16. Peter Houlihan says:

    That article is outstandingly well written, I don’t think I can fault it. Good work :)

  17. Richard Firestone says:

    Black people that do not tip are adding to the stereotype and continuing the cycle. Break the cycle. If you do not tip, please do not eat in a service restaurant. If you do not have money, do not order that expensive drink, appetizer and desert. The server is most likely having to tip out the busser, host and bartender for everything you order. I believe the animosity comes when you over-order(a sign of greed) and the server has to give more of their hard earned money away. Be sensible. Break the cycle.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Damon Young, in “Eating While Black”, talks about a peculiar type of “race neurosis” that makes it difficult to see […]

  2. […] Continue reading here: Eating While Black — The Good Men Project […]

  3. […] you haven’t already, head on over to The Good Men Project and check out “Eating While Black” — The Champ’s take on being black in America […]

  4. […] you haven’t already, head on over to The Good Men Project and check out “Eating While Black” — The Champ’s take on being black in America […]

  5. […] Young, proprietor of Very Smart Brothas, recently had a piece at the Good Men Project titled “Eating While Black”.  Since this is smack-dab in the middle of […]

  6. […] “Eating While Black” was eventually published last Monday, and it was pretty well-received; ending the week as the 3rd most popular article at The Good Men Project that week. The comments it generated didn’t really touch on the racial neurosis aspect, though, as most were focused on why Eating While Black occurs. […]

  7. […] “Eating While Black” was eventually published last Monday, and it was pretty well-received; ending the week as the 3rd most popular article at The Good Men Project that week. The comments it generated didn’t really touch on the racial neurosis aspect, though, as most were focused on why Eating While Black occurs. […]

  8. […] and some of that discussion continued on into this week. Damon Young wrote two posts for us, “Eating While Black” and “I Prefer My Racism Straight Up, Thank You,” that brought in 100 comments. […]

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