Readers here know that, of all media, my bête noire is HuffPost, the wokest and most repugnant of Left-wing and widely-read “news” sites. It’s getting woker, too, and that may be because it was bought by BuzzFeed last November, which of course is in the same ballpark.
I’m not a big one for Schadenfreude, but I would have a big grin on my face if HuffPost went under. Indeed, given the proliferation of ads (often masquerading as “news”) on its site, that may be in the offing.
To keep my equanimity, I no longer check the site very often, but I did today, and my eye was caught by the article below (click on screenshot). “What?” I thought. “I’d never heard of tipping being a legacy of slavery.” So I had to investigate the charges.
The verdict: not guilty. In fact there are only two sentences in the article that could be said to have anything to do with slavery:
Around 1850, there was a massive strike of waiters who were mostly men, and restaurants replaced them with women. It happened around the time of emancipation, so the feminization of this industry was combined with the entrance of Black people into the labor market … and that combination resulted in a mutation of tipping from being an extra or bonus to becoming the wage itself.
Here’s the other:
The idea that this whole industry gets away with saying, “Customers should pay our workers’ wages for us,” is an anathema and in direct contradiction to what we as a nation decided 150 years ago with the abolition of slavery, when we decided as a nation that employers should be paying for the value of labor.
The first statement makes no direct connection between tipping and slavery, but simply says that black people entered the labor market around the time that the restaurant industry became “feminized”. (Note: 1850 was well before slavery was ended, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, which of course did not flood the labor market with freed slaves!). There is no mention of slavery here. But there is a valid point to be made, which is that the increasing number of women as waitpeople might be correlated with the desire to pay lower wages. That’s for a restaurant historian to determine, but if true it has to do with sexism, not slavery.
Other data show that the proportion of whites, blacks, and Hispanics among waitstaff is pretty close to their proportion in the population as a whole, casting doubt on the article’s statement about racial disproportionality: “Today, 70% of these workers are women and they are disproportionately women of color. . . . “. And surely this indicts poverty, not slavery, as Hispanics were not slaves in America.
The second statement analogizes being a waiter/waitress (let’s say “waitperson”) with being a slave. The analogy fails on two counts: first, as far as I know, the abolition of slavery was not directly connected with any decision that “employers should be paying for the value of labor.” The second is that, as I noted above, there’s not a scintilla of evidence that tipping is a legacy of slavery. One might consider it slavery, but I think any number of people might object to that. Although I haven’t seen people yet go after the word “slavery”, when it means “working for little or no recompense” (e.g., the way HuffPost used to treat its writers), an analogy is not a legacy.
Let me add here that I do object to the whole scheme of tipping, which most of the world seems to have rejected. In some places it’s illegal in restaurants, while in others, like France, service is included in the price of the food. You can leave a couple of Euros if you wish, but it’s not required. I would much prefer to have the food prices raised and the waitstaff paid a living wage. (As the article makes clear, in many states the hourly wage for waitstaff is abysmal: just a few dollars.)
There are other arguments against tipping as well, and you know them. The waitstaff can get penalized for mistakes of the cooks or other people in the “back of the house”, sometimes women get advised, as the article notes, to wear revealing clothes to jack up their take, which is ridiculous, and one never knows how much to tip, especially if the service is bad. My standard tip is now 20%, almost never lower, and can be higher if service is exceptionally good. But I’d prefer not to have to ponder the issue at all, and for other people (not me!) it’s led to ugly scenes when the waitstaff chase down a customer who’s been especially uncharitable.
This whole article could have been written about the shabby treatment of waitstaff in restaurants, and I would have been on board. But the claim that tipping is a “legacy of slavery” and should be “abolished” seems to be an attempt to fold restaurants and waitstaff into the 1619 Project. And that’s why I despise HuffPost.