16 March 2008

And now for something that will get me called a racist...

I've been working nearly every weekend for about two years now at a Chinese takeout in coastal Georgia, and I've made the following observations: 99.9%* of people who steal money out of the tip jar are black. Of those, 99% are young black women between the ages of 13 and 28 - and the rest are accompanied by one. Furthermore, about 90% of all young black women between the ages of 13 and 28 who walk into the store ... turn out to be either tip jar thieves, or they start to do the tip jar dance but abort under my disapproving glare.

For reasons like this, two managers in a row of this same takeout have expressed the opinion that "all black people are bad." Neither of them were born and raised in the U.S., surrounded by a culture of traditional stereotyping against American black people. They came to these conclusions based on their own observations.

I'm having a difficult time here speaking up in their defense. If you're a young black woman between the ages of 13 and 28, please help me out by putting money into the tip jar instead. Or, failing that, stand as far away from it as possible and avoid looking at it. Meanwhile, politeness be damned: if my "tip jar thief" vibe goes off, I'm moving the tip jar under the counter until you leave.

*The 0.01% were a pair of pre-teen white boys with an obviously middle class father (based on dress and that he paid with a credit card). That pissed me off even more than the usual thieves, because they had no excuse whatsoever for taking tip money.

**More observations on customer demographics and thieves thereof, as made last summer


John the Scientist said...

I've got to get to bed, but I'll post more when I wake up. You are absolutely right in noticing a pronounced bimodal distribution in the American black community.

I went to an all-black church as a kid.(Well, except for my folks and me). Our organist always used to complain that whenever he heard a group of loud, rude, obnoxious people, he was ashamed to see they were usually black. This was a man who fought in the segregated navy in WWII and then fought for equality afterwards. He was disgusted by how some people were taking for granted all that he'd fought for in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. (I knew him in the 70s, 80s and 90s).

I don't think you are a racist for noting the same thing he did.

More later, when the jet lag abates.

Michelle K said...

I've thought about this some. And it's an issue I've dealt with myself.

I have had primarily negative experiences dealing with a certain nationality/racial group. Not *all* of my experiences, but I would guess an overwhelming majority of them.

Although I think it may have to do more with the fact that those who come here are from a privileged class and once they arrive here continue to act entitled, it's hard to separate that out when someone is being a big furry jerk. i.e. if someone comes up to me demanding something, or cheating on their classwork because they find a project beneath them, or whatever, I could care less that is how they're used to being treated.

But I do feel guilty about it when my brain goes, "of course they're a jerk, they're from..."

How do you separate racism from repeated bad experiences with a culture?

brenda013 said...

A culture does not specify a race. It specifies a country (or two). Usually a country has a dominant race, so the two get confused. Entitlement comes along with a culture's programming. Typical example, a US visitor in another country.
For example, I was startled, when I came to live here in the US that the children of adults (be they pre-teen, teen or even older) would not come and talk and socialize with adult visitors to their homes. In HUGE contrast to what happens in South American countries. It bothered me a lot.
That is culture programming. But it happened most often with with white folk. Not with Latino families living in the US.
From what I can tell, the black American culture is going through radical entitlement issues. Maybe MWT's experience in the Chinese take-out has to do with that, or maybe it is just a local black girl thing in that area (coastal Georgia).
The Chinese managers seeming to have come to their own "black people are bad" conclusions cannot truly be seen as personal conclusions. Their own culture within the US is clearly at odds with the black one, as well as the Latinos. All same gossip...

If MWT doesn't object I can cut and paste the description to a friend of mine who is a young teen black; see what she has to say. She is an exceptional clear thinking person.
As for the pre-teen boys, just entitlement greed, I'd say.
Maybe the tip jar needs to be velcro-ed to its place and have a slot for the money. Can you imagine the ripping sound of the velcro as the pilferer tried to tip the jar? I got the irresistible picture in my mind of the monkey traps my grandfather described, where a bait such as a banana was placed in a narrow necked jar, which was tied to something. The monkey would put its hand in the jar to get the fruit and then would not let go to get away. Their fist stopped them from being able to get their hand out of the jar! (LOL)

Michelle K said...


In this case race and culture are pretty much the same. Which is why I have such a hard time of it.

MWT said...

You're certainly welcome to show the post to your young friend, but also show the one I wrote last summer. Everything in that previous post stands as well, aside from the statistic (the white boys did their thing to bump it down from 100% only a few weeks ago - and I think they just wanted to see if they could get away with it).

I've thought about all sorts of contraptions that would limit theft of the jar, like making it out of heavy plastic, bolting it to the counter, having an opening shaped like bus fare boxes, etc. But at the end of the day, the takeout managers don't seem to really worry that much about it. With no theft, it's around $20 extra in cash per day, so even if they lose a few dollars once in a while - or even sometimes the whole jar (poor young men don't bother with the dance, they'll just grab the whole thing and run) - they still make out ahead in the long run. Also, it's not like I get any of the tip jar money (I do get paid pretty well). So for me it's the principle of the thing.

I'm not sure what you mean about Chinese culture at odds with the black and Latino ones. The takeout managers get along very well with the Hispanic customers, who are all friendly decent people.

brenda013 said...

I know that the Hispanics/Latinos are friendly decent people. I am one myself. :-)
(although of the wrong bloodlines).
The "at odds" bit was not negative, exactly. It is more like each culture is very private about its home life, and on guard in other cultures.
I experienced the layers of "who is on top" in the various Latino groups. Last I heard the Mexicans were at the top and the Guatemaltecos were the newcomers. However, that is a few years ago, so I'm pretty sure things have changed since then.
I becha it is the same with the various Asian groups. The Chinese are a very strong group here in the US. At least, this is my impression. The Vietnamese are also wonderful people.

MWT said...

Of the various Asian groups, I think the Koreans are by far the most close-knit. The Japanese are too. The Chinese do tend to be more numerous overall, however.