By HUGO GYE
PUBLISHED: 18:55 EST, 23 April 2012 | UPDATED: 06:29 EST, 24 April 2012
Most people would like to believe that racial discrimination is becoming increasingly rare and unacceptable in mainstream society.
But a new study suggests that African-Americans still face subtle prejudice in at least one area of life – dining out.
A survey of waiters in North Carolina revealed that nearly two-fifths admitted to treating customers differently depending on their race.
And as many as 90 per cent said they had participated in or overheard racially charged conversations among their co-workers.
Prejudice: African-Americans may be at a disadvantage when they dine out (picture posed by models)
‘Many people believe that race is no longer a significant issue in the United States,’ says Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study.
‘But the fact that a third of servers admit to varying their quality of service based on customers’ race, often giving African-Americans inferior service, shows that race continues to be an issue in our society.’
The article, which is published in the Journal of Black Studies, reported the results of a survey of 200 servers at 18 different restaurants in the state.
Many of the waiters questioned said they perceived African-Americans to be less polite than others, while some added that they thought black diners tipped less generously.
These beliefs led 38.5 per cent of the waiters – a large majority of whom were white – to admit that they adjusted the quality of their service based on the race of their customers.
And 52.8 per cent of those surveyed said they had seen their colleagues discriminate against African-Americans.
In American restaurants, up to a third of servers will serve customers slower simply because they are African-American
Racial discrimination is even more rife behind the scenes at restaurants, according to the study, as most servers reported hearing or joining in with ‘racialised discourse’.
Close to 90 per cent said they had experienced co-workers’ gossiping about the race of customers.
Sarah Rusche of North Carolina State University, one of the study’s authors, commented: ‘”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.’
Internet users had mixed reactions to the controversial findings.
One commenter, who claimed to be a black waiter himself, wrote: ‘I am embarrassed at the seemingly deliberate ignorance of African-Americans when it comes to tipping.’
However, another warned against stereotyping an entire race based on pre-conceptions, describing the behaviour depicted in the study as ‘the definition of racism’.