Dining While Black: It Happened to Me

Dining While Black: It Happened to Me

Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at North Carolina State, polled 200 servers in North Carolina restaurants and found that nearly 40 percent discriminated against their black patrons. Servers admitted that they intentionally gave black customers poor service because they were considered to be rude and poor tippers.

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

Dining while black, aka “tableside racism” is real. I know because I’ve experienced it before.

When I was a grad student at Iowa State University, Perkin’s was my dining area of choice.

As one of the few black students on campus (outside of the athletes), I looked forward to spending Sunday evenings with other students of color for our wind-down weekly meal. We were graduate students, we all tipped well, and we had servers who were delighted to see us.

My dish was Taco salad, a crispy taco shell bowl filled with a bounty of fresh lettuce, tomato, onions, sour cream, special seasonings and a scoop of beef on top.

Every Sunday I ordered the dish without meat.

On this particular Sunday, we were late to the restaurant and had a new crew serve us. A concert was in town and the restaurant was flooded with post-concert goers.

I ordered my usual Taco salad (without meat); however the server delivered the salad with a dollop of greasy beef on top. I refused it.

The server admitted the mistake and she took the salad away.

To my astonishment, the new white male manager on duty marched out of the kitchen with the same meaty salad and demanded that I pay for it, even though the server got the order wrong. “You people always want more,” he yelled at us. “More condiments, more food. Something’s always wrong.”

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