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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student


Standard privilege

Union Board’s screening of “Dear White People” made me aware of how race influences even the mundane practice of calculating a tip. The film by Justin Simien addressed many aspects of the marginalization that affect black college students in this country.

I consider myself pretty self-aware when it comes the privilege my race, gender and middle-class upbringing ?provide.

However, “Dear White People” presented a new one.

There is a stereotype that people who are black don’t tip well. Consequentially, restaurant patrons who are black tend to receive lesser ?service. 

If there were ever a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum to be solved, it would be ?this one. I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that black patrons have been receiving bad service before they were considered bad tippers. 

As addressed in “Dear White People,” black diners today are faced with three choices when tipping after receiving poor service.

One, they can give a tip proportional to the poor service but risk confirming or perpetuating an already unfair stereotype.

Two, they can give a tip as if they had received regular, “white people” service but allow poor service to ?continue without ?consequence. Three, they can leave a tip that would be generous even for good service in an effort to overcompensate or combat the stereotype pitted against black diners.

Of course, when choosing the third option, black diners spend more money than anyone reasonably should for poor service and still risk reinforcing discriminatory behavior.

And even if this excessive tip is recognized as contrary to the stereotype, it is likely to be treated as a fluke, an exception to the rule that will continue to persist and subject black diners to an unfair exchange.

For me, this third option highlights a key aspect of life in the margins. If someone who doesn’t fall under the norm wants to be treated normally, that person has to rise to abnormal ?expectations.

This can be cause for critique within minority ?communities. Such was the case in the flame war regarding “Looking” actor Russell Tovey’s expression of proud ?masculinity.

Nic Holas of Gay News Network framed it as an instance of “another one of the (handful of) high profile gay men in the public eye (who) says something ill conceived, ignorant or just not good enough.”

Those who belong to the same minority give little margin for error to those who are expected to act as the model representatives of those identities — whether they want to or not.

More often, however, this is a persecution of a marginalized person through the lens of the majority.

This is seen in the way Hillary Clinton is being barraged by critics for a minor faux pas blown out of proportion when she has otherwise gone to painstaking efforts to cross her ‘t’s and dot her ‘i’s.

Your average white man can have trivial missteps that leave his political prospects unencumbered or leave unjustifiably low tips without it being associated with his elusive, invisible, untouchable identity status.

Such is the nature of the privilege of lower standards.

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