The results of a new study show that almost 40% of servers admit to adjusting the quality of their service based on the race of their customers, and just over 50% claim that they have seen their colleagues do so.

The study, published in the Journal of Black Studies, surveyed 200 servers at 18 different full-service chain restaurants in North Carolina. About 86% of these servers were white.

The survey also showed that 90% of those surveyed have participated in racially charged conversations among their co-workers. The beliefs that these conversations have brought out, which, the study says, fuel the prejudice displayed by the servers, are the ideas that black customers are neither as polite nor as generous tippers as are customers of other races.

Sarah Rusche, co-author of the paper, sees restaurant treatment as just another way that discrimination bleeds into our daily lives.

“’Tableside racism’ is yet another example in which African-Americans are stereotyped and subsequently treated poorly in everyday situations…Race continues to be a significant barrier to equal treatment in restaurants and other areas of social life.”

The sample size of these studies are never large enough to make hard and fast rules about how people behave, but it’s very telling that out of 200 servers, 80 of them admit to have treated a customer poorly because of race — that is far from insignificant. The problem is likely made worse by the pay structure for waiters and waitresses — since their pay is so dependent on tips, it’s rude, but perhaps more efficient, for servers to discriminate than to hope for the best.

Aside from boycotting establishments that have directly treated us poorly, however, what can we do about it? When I receive bad service, I tend to withhold or reduce the tip, which probably then allows servers to think that black people are bad tippers…where does the cycle end?

What do you think? Have you been discriminated against while dining out?

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