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Are You Guilty of 'Table Side Racism?'

By Edward Tan, JD | Last updated on

While "table side racism" might sound like an insane dining service, it's actually a phenomenon sweeping American restaurants. A new study finds that "dining while black" can be just as bad for African-Americans as driving while black.

Minus the police brutality, of course.

The study was conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University. Researchers polled 200 food servers from 18 North Carolina restaurants. Their results showed 38.5 percent of respondents discriminated against black diners.

What reasons did wait staffers give for their actions?

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), a lot of stereotypes were cited.

Respondents reported viewing black diners as more rude and demanding than other customers. In addition, they also believed black customers to be worse tippers.

As a result, these servers routinely gave black clients poorer service. The study found waiters often tried to pass off "black tables" to other servers due to these fears. In one case, researchers reported Denny's employees referred to sudden influxes of black customers as "blackouts."

Researchers also found black patrons waited an unreasonably long time to be seated. Some black diners were also mistaken for valets and coat and bathroom attendants.

Of the servers surveyed, 86 percent were white.

While the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause prohibits state and federal racial discrimination, it's long been held that private discrimination is allowed. This is true regardless of how wrong or unfair the private action may be.

But as far as good company practices go, discrimination against any race is never a good idea. The goal of any business is profit, and part of getting more is keeping customers coming back.

Though the table side racism study was based entirely on North Carolina servers, researchers believe the effects of dining while black are felt nationwide.

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