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Black Women Do Tip: Why I've Learned That Prejudice and Assumptions Are Wrong
I wasn't raised to be prejudiced.
I lived in an area with all kinds of different people, I grew up with classmates of every color, I spent time with family members of all ages, I had friends with different sexual orientations, and I grew up knowing that everyone is equal.
Everyone is equal. I still believe that to this day. But somewhere in my childhood, the prejudice around me started to creep its way into my head, and my thoughts got a little corrupted.
I think I've always had a sense of injustice. I hate seeing bad things happen to good people, especially when they don't deserve it. When I hear about something unfair happening, I always want to correct it. I may have gone a little overboard in trying to do right, because teachers at school started telling me, "Life isn't fair!" whenever I complained. Life isn't fair, I would think to myself, but it should be.
As you get older, the people you spend time with change. Even if you come from a good, loving home, your parents can't control who you go to school with. When you become a teenager, your family doesn't pick your friends or co-workers at your job. When I started school, I wanted to fit in with everyone else, and I sometimes sacrificed my beliefs in the process.
I may not be old and wise, but thankfully, I've learned a lot from my past. One of the most important lessons I've ever learned is that prejudices and assumptions based on something that someone can't control are almost never true.
"Asians are so rude!"
This was probably one of the first stereotypes I heard. My elementary school only had a few Asian students, so they tried to spread them out into each class. One year, my class didn't have any, but we had a parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year. A girl whose name I won't reveal (I think she got this from her parents, anyway) said something to me like, "Aren't you glad we don't have any Chinese kids this year?"
I asked her why. "Asians are so rude! They always bump into you at the mall and they never say sorry. I don't get why they don't have good manners like the rest of us."
Later that year, we had a substitute teacher who liked cats. She decided to warn us about a new Thai restaurant that had just opened up in her neighborhood. "Ever since they opened the place, all the stray cats around my house have been disappearing. I think they're putting something extra in the chicken!" At that time, I had a cat, Wally, who I adored. Of course, I started feeling scared that some Asians would come take him.
A few years, my family went to pick up dinner at Panda Express. At the last minute, my sister decided she wanted McDonald's, so we dropped my mom off to get the Chinese food and went through the McDonald's drive thru. It took longer than we expected. When we finally got back to pick my mom up, she was standing outside chatting with a woman we didn't know. She got in the car and told us that the woman, who happened to be Chinese and one of the workers at Panda, had "impeccable manners". Apparently, she saw my mom standing outside by herself at night and came outside to make sure she had a ride. Then, she waited with her so she would stay safe. And all Asians are rude?
"Gay people are perverts!"
Another early stereotype I learned was a hatred towards gay people. At school, "homo" and "fag" were normal insults, and gay people were looked at as sick freaks who molested children. Two friends of mine lived in a neighborhood with a lesbian couple. Another girl who lived near them decided it would be funny to vandalize their house. She invited us to come, and we said we would.
My best friend and I were taking a walk through her neighborhood a few hours before the T.P.-ing and egging was supposed to happen. I could tell we were both feeling really uncomfortable about it. Right when we passed their house, we both stopped. "I can't do this." I said. "It's too mean." She agreed with me and we told our other friends that the plans were off, and if they went forth with their plan, we'd know who did it. Luckily, they decided to leave the women alone.
Since then, I've met many gay people and learned more about gay rights. I have no problem with anyone based on their sexual orientation, especially since I met a gay couple with 3 children who I know aren't being molested. They are some of the best parents I know!
"Black women don't tip!"
One night, my ex-boyfriend (current at the time) decided to introduce me to his best female friend who worked as a waitress. He was Black, she was White. She came outside and introduced herself to me, but she looked mad. He asked her what was wrong and she told that she just got another table of Black women. (Actually, she used a different word than women, but you get the point.) "I hate Black girls!" She snapped. "They don't even tip me!" I remember wondering why she would say something that applied to my boyfriend's mother, sisters, etc. right in front of him. He later told me that it was "just her personality."
A few years later, I got a job bagging groceries at an army store and carrying them out to the shopper's car. It wasn't for me and I quit after 4 days, but one thing about the job was that we were paid only in tips. If the customer didn't tip us, we had to go to the back of the line and wait our turn for someone else. It took forever.
When I was next to bag the groceries, I noticed that the person in line was a Black woman, and I remember what my ex's friend had said. In my head I thought, I hope she tips! I felt a little guilty for wondering if she would tip based on the color of her skin, especially when she handed me two bills. I thanked her and started to walk back to the store, thinking she gave me the usual tip of two dollars. Then I looked down and saw that one was a five! That was the biggest tip anyone ever gave me the whole time I worked there, and it came from a Black woman, who supposedly should have refused to tip based on her skin.
There are many other stereotypes I've found to be untrue. If Jews are greedy and selfish, why did my friend's Jewish parents take my sister and me to the movies and buy us all the food we wanted just because we said we were bored? If poor people are violent, why was one of the lowest-income students at my middle school the girl who broke up all the fights? If old people are close-minded and mean, why are some of the nicest people I know, people I've met at my old job at a nursing home?
Stereotypes started for reasons, but not good ones. Even though the people I've met who proved these assumptions wrong for me are only a fraction of the population, I know that there are exceptions everywhere. Actually, it's the people who fit right into little categories that are the exceptions.