Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
If you’re a non-POC about to read this blog post, thank you.
Thank you for making an effort to learn about the plight and subconscious struggles of Black people, because while this may not apply to your lives directly, you’ll gain perspective when you listen to our collective truths.
Black people and POC, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments, because this post only summarizes the perspectives shared with me on Instagram, and I know there are several more to add to the conversation.
It all started a week ago in Bali, Indonesia when I had a 50 cent taxi fare and I gave the driver $3.50 with a gesture to keep the change.
If you’ve been to Bali, you know that Go-Jek is the #1 app for motorbike taxis where you can pay as little as dime for a 15-minute ride.
So rounding up to the nearest dollar (or 5), isn’t grandeur or praise-worthy. I’ve been here so many times that it’s just second nature.
“Wow, Black skin [is] always so good to me!”
As if to share that whenever he gets Black riders, we always tip well. He gave a very gracious bow, eyes in shock that I gave “so much,” and I just loved his gratitude.
Something so small to me meant so much to him. I saved his number and told him I’d use him instead of the app for the next few days I’d be in that area. And I did.
It was so refreshing to hear that positive feedback about Black people altogether, albeit abroad, because there’s this ugly unspoken “truth” in the service industry that Black people are known to be some of the stingiest tippers.
I carry that horrible stereotype with me on my travels and because of it, I’ve always felt the need to over-tip when in tipping countries.
So I asked the Black people in my Instagram audience if they too, feel pressured to always tip extremely well to negate the stereotype that Black people don’t tip to begin with.
Over the next few hours, I received over 100 DM’s from the Black community sharing their own stories. It was so liberating to read such vulnerable and honest accounts. Just in hearing them speak their truth, I felt less guilty and alone about the way I approach everyday situations.As a black person, do you feel pressured to over-tip to negate the stereotype that we're collectively poor tippers? Click To Tweet
Here were some of my favorite responses:
“I always overtip and most of those who are with me at the time hate it. Black servers/wait staff who say that they hate getting Black patrons (especially Black women) because we don’t tip. Because of that? I’m always at least 25% or MORE.”
“Well…as an African traveler I do feel the urge to prove a point that Africa is not poor. I get questions like, ‘Oh, you are from Africa (as if it’s a country), so who is financing your trip?’ So during my first years of travel, during coffees or meals, I made sure I tipped well or even bought the ‘miseducated’ individual their drink as I stated, ‘I work hard and saved for my trips, Africa is not as poor as you think,’ as I picture myself slapping a few currency notes on their faces.”
“Last year I was in a debate with a young girl who stated I can’t be from Kenya, for she donates money and clothes to Kenya and couldn’t understand how can a Kenyan afford to travel. She said there must be another story behind me.”
“Many times I feel patronized and feel the need to go a step above to show even us we are capable. I find it as a way to educate especially more now with the immigrant crisis.”
“I think about this every time I go out and have bad service! I want to tip based on how my service was but I’m also conflicted because I know that it would validate those stereotypes of Black people tipping poorly! #lestruggle
“I definitely feel the pressure to be a generous tipper, even if the service is terrible. It seems kind of far fetched to think my one too can dismantle a long-standing stereotype, but my hope is that tipping will at least help the establishment treat future Black patrons well.”
“I feel this way not just with tips but life. It’s overwhelming and tiring to always have to be conscious of how I’m perceived because of my skin.”
“I am always going above and beyond cause I want the next Black person who comes behind me to be welcomed rather than ignored or bothered for things they can’t control like their skin color. For example, if a waiter is ignoring my table the whole night and clearly doing more for other colorless tables, I will leave an even bigger tip just to show their ignorant ass that if you would just treat us right we will treat you right.”
“Absolutely, regardless of location, I feel compelled to tip well. My base tip, even for terrible service is 20%. If the service is good, I move the needle up from there. My parents told me, “Wherever you go, you represent us all.'”
But not everyone felt this burden. Here are some other perspectives to consider:
“If the service is good, the tip is better. If it’s not, the tip is worse. What they think of me is none of my business.”
“I’m not gonna give more than I can afford just to prove a point. If I travel on a budget, I tip on a budget too. But I didn’t know this stereotype existed — I live in the Netherlands and people don’t usually leave tips here.”
“I had the mindset of trying to prove a point and trying to diminish stereotypes usually through spending. I would beat myself up afterwards because I knew it was something I wasn’t happy with. I listened to a podcast from Lisa Nichols and it helped change my mindset. She said, ‘I have nothing to protect, prove, hide, or defend. I got comfortable with who I am and if that person doesn’t see that, their loss.'”
Then I shared even further how when I’m back in the U.S. doing any kind of shopping, I don’t even have the luxury of window-shopping anymore. I always think there’s no way in hell I can leave empty-handed or they’ll think I stole something. So I always buy something small just to avoid the awkwardness and suspicion. And Black people could relate to that as well.
“I do the same when I’m shopping. For example, if I ask a sales associate for a shoe and ultimately decide I don’t want it, I’ll usually still buy it anyways (even if it means I have to return it elsewhere later) just so they don’t assume that I couldn’t afford it or wasn’t a serious customer just because I’m Black. And whenever I think about the economic loss I’m incurring — even if it’s just time — I kick myself for doing it. And yet, I continue.”
There seems to be a common theme with most of us who do feel the need to over-tip or inconvenience ourselves to prove a point about Black people collectively. I love how we look out for each other. We want the next Black person to have a good experience based on the positive impression our own experiences leave.
As if we feel like our individual experiences and everyday interactions either set, raise, or lower the bar for the collective Black population.
How exhausting to live with that weight and burden every day. And yet, here we are. Here I am.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our brains compartmentalize our opinions based off the first-hand experiences we have and the second-hand experiences others share within their circles.
So when in countries or stateside cities with low Black populations, it’s common for them to resort to archaic stereotypes and ignorant beliefs due to their lack of exposure with people in those communities. Homogeneity isn’t necessarily to blame though. It’s the lack of diversified roles in media and news coverage more than anything that keep painting Black people with the same broad stroke.
This should go without saying, but if you’ve never had to think about how your tipping practices reflect your race, *that* is the definition of privilege.
Privilege comes in many forms. It’s not something to feel guilty about. It’s simply something to acknowledge so you can better contextualize the lives of those around you. That is how compassion and empathy are born.
And though this article is about the Black experience, it warmed my heart and restored my faith to read dozens of messages like this one:
“Glo, thank you so much! I’m white, so it is sooo eye-opening to read about your experiences and struggles! This story really hit home for me about how big an issue white privilege truly is. I feel powerless and angry when I hear about your struggles. Do you have any advice on how I as an individual can do something to improve the situation besides empathize and treat POC as I myself would like to be treated? I love how your content is so educational! Thank you!”
Whew! This message right here made me tear up. It’s model behavior for the support I and other Black people want from more non-POC . Not only acknowledgment of the issue, but a genuine desire to take action to personally change the status quo.
For other white people reading this, the way you can help change is by first, amplifying our voices. I guarantee the majority of white people don’t even know this is an issue within the POC community. So start by spreading this message or article with your circle of friends.
The people who need to hear my words the most, likely won’t want to hear it from me. And that’s where you come in and do the work for us. Share our stories so they can gain perspective.
And two, call out poor behavior and treatment when you see it. If you work in the service industry, understand that the way us Black people tip varies from person-to-person. Minorities’ behavior is often always lumped together and one, single form of it is accepted as the standard.
Please stop assuming we’re poor, incapable, uneducated, or inadequate for the spaces and places we occupy. We’re not looking for handouts. Just common courtesy and mutual respect.
And until the need to tip dies down [because service workers should be paid a fair base salary to begin with] I honestly don’t think I’ll stop over-tipping.
While I can agree with the argument of how someone’s prejudiced behavior shouldn’t be rewarded positively, just like when I was spit at in Prague or denied service in Rio de Janeiro, I will still smile in the face of racism, because if it means the next Black person after me doesn’t have to go through that and gets more respect or better service, then that’s something I’m personally willing to keep investing/over-tipping in.