I have worked in the service industry doing everything from bussing to serving to bartending for years and the one thing that has followed me to every establishment I have worked in is explicit racism. In recent years more attention and media coverage has been given to the issues black people face as consumers in America. Instances such as two black men being arrested in a Starbucks or the singer SZA being followed around by a security guard while in a Sephora are commonplace. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that race influenced employees politeness to customers and that hotel employees gave 20% more restaurant suggestions to white people than black or asian people so this issue is widespread.
My own experience as someone in the service industry has been that regardless of the type or kind of restaurant, racism plays a huge role in interactions with customers. Hearing things such as “Why does my section only have black people in it?” or “Can you take this table for me? They’re white so you should get a tip,” is normalized. What I have found most shocking in my experiences is the racist ideologies that people of color themselves adapt. A majority of my coworkers are people of color and they are just as guilty of making these assumptions and passing off a table if they’re not white. What I have noticed is that the primary reason for people not wanting to serve tables with people of color is that they assume they will not get a tip. However, when they believe this it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in that they assume they won’t get a tip and because of this give subpar service resulting in receiving a poor tip which unfortunately just further feeds into these racist ideas. Many times I have gotten tables where my coworkers have come up to me to tell me I’m not going to get a tip. However, I consciously try to treat every table the same and numerous times I have proved my coworkers wrong.
Unfortunately, for many people these assumptions are so deeply ingrained that it takes significantly more than racial sensitivity training to try and combat it. These actions are the result of the racism we all have been indoctrinated with since birth and structural and systemic changes need to be made to even begin to deal with this issue. I often wonder when my coworkers of color say these explicitly racist things, how it affects their own relationship with their identity and to what extent they internalize the things they say about people of their own race.