Race Money Now + Beyond

The origins of tipping at American restaurants are rooted in racism

In the United States, it’s a common custom within the service and hospitality industry to tip waged workers. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers in the US is $2.13, compared to the main federal minimum wage which is $7.25, and has remained just short of two dollars for many decades.

People have been critical of the exploitative practice of tipping for years. The critiques mostly surround corporations utilization of tipping to legally get away with paying their workers an unlivable wageEssentially, customers are responsible for paying restaurant worker’s wages through tips.

And although tipping is optional, many Americans view not tipping service workers as rude or unethical due to their low wages. The other spectrum of people’s critiques simply highlights how grossly low and unethical paying individuals $2.13 is.

Restaurant workers are more likely to live below the poverty line than the general population, and that likelihood increases depending on things like race and gender. Activists have been trying to raise the minimum wage for hourly workers for decades. The Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, would additionally raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in almost three decades.

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory.

The stagnation of wages for tipped workers is itself abhorrent and a clear illustration of how predatory capitalism is on lower-income and working-class people. Workers’ wages being reliant upon (optional) tips from customers, rather than a guaranteed right from million or billion-dollar corporations is unethical. However, upon an even deeper examination into the custom of tipping in the US, its history is more corrupt than most know. 

Tipping actually originated in “medieval times as a master-serf custom wherein a servant would receive extra money for having performed superbly well,” Rachel E. Greenspan explains in an article for TIME. In the mid-1800s, wealthy Americans discovered the concept of tipping after travels to Europe and brought the custom to the states in order to seem dignified and well-traveled. 

The custom stuck in the Post Reconstruction Era, after slavery “ended,” as a way to opt-out of paying Black people who were now looking for work. Restaurants would pay Black workers little to nothing and forced them to rely on (optional) tips from white clientele, which “entrenched a unique and often racialized class structure in service jobs, in which [Black] workers must please both customer and employer to earn anything at all,” says Dr William J. Barber II in an article for Politico. Thus, legally continuing the practice of slavery but in a re-imagined way.

The custom was nationally unpopular for a while and only a custom done in the South because many people felt forcing customers to tip was condescending and classist. People thought it cruel to suggest poor people should give an additional amount of money on top of their bill. As a result, some states even made laws against the practice.

Additionally, tipping was thought to be a concept reserved only for Black workers, whereas white workers deserved to be fairly paid for their work. However, as Black people began moving north for economic opportunity and to escape segregationist laws, the custom of tipping followed, becoming the national standard within the US’s restaurant industry.

It’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.”

Fast forward to today, conversations (or arguments) surrounding the ethics of tipping at American restaurants occur often on social media between wait staff and restaurant workers and restaurant-goers. I’ve always found these discussions to be futile because the ethics of greedy corporations are never questioned, which in turn produces no real, systemic change for waged workers.

Rev. Dr William J. Barber II further states in his article, “We may live in a very different society from 150 years ago, but the subminimum tipped wage still exacerbates the inequalities passed down from that time.”

American capitalism makes our economy inherently unethical and predatory. So, rather than people regularly arguing amongst each other on whether working-class people are responsible for paying the wages of other working-class people, we should be collectively challenging our government to pay us livable wages.

Although the history of tipping in America is racist, raising the federal minimum wage benefits all working-class people regardless of race. Thankfully, an organization of restaurant industry leaders called Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE) was founded in 2019 to champion living wages, basic benefits, and fair promotion policies for waged workers in the restaurant industry.

In addition, wages for hourly workers reliant on tips are being raised in isolated policies across the states like in Michigan or Washington DC. However, there obviously needs to be a national standard that correlates with the cost of living in America.

With racism being examined so closely this year, it’s imperative to know the history behind malpractices deemed as “normal.” And instead, challenge or dismantle those norms to begin building an economy that equally serves all.

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Why jumping the broom at African American weddings is significant

Wedding ceremonies often incorporate traditions reflecting the bride and groom’s lineage or culture. In Black American culture, some newlyweds participate in the long-time tradition of “jumping the broom” to seal their marriage and pay homage to their ancestors. This marriage tradition within the African American community began during slavery, specifically around 1840 to 1850. 

Though, there are many differing accounts of where the tradition originated. The most common sentiment is the tradition of jumping the broom began in West Africa. In hindsight, West Africa seems to be the most likely origin, as people taken into enslavement in America mostly came from that African region. Moreover, in older West African culture, brooms signified a tool to sweep away evil spirits and negative energy. So, newlyweds who jump the broom are “sweeping away” their old life, as well as any negative energy attached to their past, and entering into a new one.

Here’s how jumping the broom works: a couple jumps over the broom directly after their wedding vows. They jump over the broom together, typically hand-in-hand, and walking back down the aisle illustrates the couple’s transition into their new life. The broom used during the ceremony may be a family heirloom or a broom bought by or gifted to the couple. Notably, the broom is not a traditional sweeping broom. Rather, it’s a shorter broom seen and used more for symbolic purposes. After the broom is used, many couples keep the broom as a keepsake for remembrance and to pass down to future generations.

Regarding how and why the tradition was used during slavery, enslaved people weren’t allowed to legally marry, as they were seen as property and not people. As a result, the tradition of jumping the broom was used to indicate a couple in enslavement were officially married

This centuries old tradition is still practiced in some African American communities. There are even many pop-culture references to jumping the broom. For example, there is a Black film titled, “Jumping the Broom” made in 2011. It’s mentioned in OutKast’s song “Call the Law” released in 2006. Additionally, the tradition is shown in the movie series “Roots,” which came out in 1971.

In fact, the popularity of “Roots” gave the old tradition a resurgence within the African American community. After slavery ended, and Black people were allowed to legally marry, the tradition fell off. However, after “Roots” displayed the harsh realities of what Black people endured during slavery, African Americans felt jumping the broom during their wedding ceremonies tied them to their ancestors.

For the Black people that still participate in this tradition, jumping the broom signifies an ode to our ancestors who did what they had to to illustrate their love for their partners as well as maintain their humanity. In addition, African Americans who jump the broom feel as though they are reclaiming the history of our ancestors. Though the historical origins behind the tradition are rather ambiguous, the horrors of slavery are well known, especially amongst the Black community. We may not know the half of it, but we do know our ancestors went through hell to give us the freedoms we now possess. Jumping the broom is a nod to their hardship as well as their spirit and endurance. African Americans also jump the broom as an acknowledgement to the only connection we have to our mostly lost West-African culture.


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Culture Gender & Identity Fashion Lookbook

Stop telling me that I’m “not like other Muslims”

Presented in partnership with SADOQ. 

Generalizations are never a good idea.

Yet most people don’t offer Muslims that common courtesy of not passing judgment. To too many, we look physically the same, our names are blended, our cultures are wrongfully intermixed (insert Aladdin),  and our voices are silenced.

According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world. And although many people assume Muslims are all from the Middle East, we are more widespread than people think.

Journalist Zara Asad (@zaraasad) in Sadoq’s EMANUELLE scarf. Property of Zara Asad.

That means that not every Muslim knows one another, nor do they have an underground book club discussing how they plan to conquer the Western world and convert everyone to Islam. It means that we come from all over the world, speak different languages, crave different foods, practice different cultures.

The main keyword here: different. 

Yet we are constantly painted with the same harsh brush of people’s biased opinions, which are then equated as “facts” on mainstream news or “harmless comedy” in movies and TV. 

Spoiler alert: it’s harmless to everyone but Muslims.

But what if we reversed this Western cultural ideology of blaming Muslims? 

What if we forced white Christians to explicitly explain to people on a daily basis that they’re not part of the KKK because their skin color is white. 

What if we demanded that every Christian condemn the acts of the KKK, along with every white Christian gunman that’s committed an act of terrorism? 

Now think about not only having to explain but apologize and present a strategic game plan on behalf of all white people explaining why you aren’t going to be the next shooter because of your religious beliefs. 

Imagine simply trying to take a vacation and “randomly” getting pulled aside in a small, dark room to be questioned whether you really love this country and if you consider the president your president.

No other religion in the Western world has to deal with its followers getting generalized with the same decades-old stereotypes, but for us, there’s no escape. 

It’s never-ending. 

It seems no matter how many articles are written or videos are made or interfaith events are held or Muslim men and women serve in the armed forces: Muslims will always be considered a monolith.

[bctt tweet=” Contrary to popular belief, Muslims don’t get a preview of upcoming terror attacks in mosque basements because they have nothing to do with them. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

This generalization is an underlying problem in our country and culture. It’s a threat to minorities and all skin colors that are a slight shade darker than white. Why is it that we classify Muslims as one body, only in reference to anything criminal and insensitive? One person commits a crime and every Muslim alive is suddenly accountable.

There is no excuse for ignorantly asking Muslims to explain their association to ISIS or to ask Muslims to speak on behalf of the barbaric militant group. It’s absurd to ask Muslims to condemn terrorism but most people don’t think twice. 

It’s mind-boggling to make the statement, “I’m not saying all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” 

Yeah, except for the vast majority who aren’t. 

But if we ask every white person to condemn slavery and mass shootings and ask them to condemn them all the time, most people are stunned. 

Rather, as Dalia Mogahed says, “We need to take a step back and ask a different question. Is it justified to demand that Muslims condemn terrorism? Condoning the killing of civilians is the most monstrous thing you can do and to be suspected of doing something so monstrous simply because of your faith seems very unfair.”

Journalist Zara Asad (@zaraasad) in Sadoq’s EMANUELLE scarf. Property of Zara Asad.

Contrary to popular belief, Muslims don’t get a preview of upcoming terror attacks in mosque basements because they have nothing to do with them. Even if the individual who committed the violent act identifies himself/herself as a Muslim.

Sidenote: Do mosques even have basements? Most barely have wifi.

This idea people hold of Muslims being a monolith not only affects Muslims as a whole, but it affects Muslim men and women individually. Muslim men are subjugated to intense “random searches” at airports. On the other hand, Muslim women are considered a monolith of oppressed, voiceless beings who have been forced to hide their bodies and bow in silence to men. These are the stereotypes many people consider to be the truth and from which they base their claims of having Muslims all figured out.

Time after time, debate after debate, Islamophobes like to make the argument that the Muslim community knew the terrorist, the Muslim community did nothing about it which turns into, the Muslim community is not on the side of the American people because they knew what was going on. “The Muslim community,” instantly becomes solely responsible.

Here’s where the problem lies: the American people know nearly nothing about mosques because most of them have never attempted to visit one, nor have they integrated with the Muslim community on a regular basis. To constantly badger the Muslim community and to pin them as responsible is where we, the American people, become incredibly irresponsible.

The reality is there is a different standard with different rules for Muslims, especially in the West. As Americans, some of us like to say, “They’ve come to our country so they have to leave their backward cultures and non-American ideologies behind.” Muslims are expected to know and respect other people’s religions. Muslims go out of their way to research and look up what communions, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, baptisms, Passover, Easter, and other religious and cultural traditions are, whether they have friends of those religions or not.

But here’s a question: how many people look up Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, Ramadan, the Quran, or anything Muslim related?

So here’s my question for you: when will we – as Americans – start understanding Muslims or their religion? When will we stop making every brown movie or TV character a terrorist, who conveniently happens to be a Muslim? 

Muslims are not a monolith, despite how convenient it is for your plot lines, newsrooms and political agendas. And continuously putting out these false narratives ironically affects not just Muslims – but the world as a whole.

It’s time to move past that.

Race The World Inequality

This is why we need a new rendition of Roots: The Next Generation

The fourth episode of the 2016 version of Roots entails Chicken George (played by Regé-Jean Page) returning to his family as a free man after being sold in England; it also entails his involvement in the Civil War, as well as his son’s, Tom (played by Sedale Threatt, Jr.).

Because Chicken George was away for twenty years, this is the first parent-child relationship that doesn’t have warm and fuzzy beginnings. That’s why, for a while, Tom wasn’t willing to hear his father’s stories of Kunta Kinte and where he came from. However, towards the end of the episode, he wants to tell his newborn daughter, Haley’s grandmother, his ancestral story, because she is the first child of his who wasn’t born a slave. It goes to show how even as traditions are either taken away or forgotten, they are also exchanged and honored in some form and fashion.

This is a beautiful remake of the 1977 original we grew up to know and gain influence from. But after this final episode, why can’t further the homage to Haley’s story? In 1979, another series to display all of the areas of Haley’s legacy from his grandmother to Haley himself in the present-day aired on television: Roots: The Next Generations. I can’t speak for everyone, but I wouldn’t mind a new version of that original.

I can see why the fourth episode ended this Roots season as it did, because it’s similar to how and why the original Roots ended. Viewers had to witness the sweetness of freedom for these beloved characters, and how their ancestors before them did not die in vain. Moreover, the symbolic tradition of picking up the dirt of one’s footprints indicate how they’ll find a way to return to them, shows how Alex Haley was willing to return to his roots, as a rite of passage for those in his lineage who couldn’t return.

However, an important point is brought up by someone who says to Chicken George: “Some white men ain’t never gonna let that go. Won’t like us being free.” Therefore, there may always be a towering majority force, trying to take certain bits of freedom away.

This interaction highlights how we as viewers should acknowledge the form of discrimination and struggles African Americans continued to face after the Civil War. In Roots: the Next Generations, Haley displays how African Americans were kept from voting, assaulted by the Ku Klux Klan, and weren’t offered as many stable opportunities as their white counterparts. To say that the struggles of the black community ended once slavery ended is false, the stories after that is our proof.

A retelling of Roots was able to acknowledge how the black community, as laborers, soldiers, and more, is what made America continue to stand on its own two feet. I believe a retelling of Roots: the Next Generations could be another great opportunity to educate viewers on a continuous depth of historical contributions.