Everyday Racism in the Context of Full-Service Restaurants

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Title: Everyday Racism in the Context of Full-Service Restaurants
Author: Brewster, Zachary W.
Advisors: William R. Smith, Committee Chair
Maxine S. Thompson, Committee Member
Rick L. Della Fave , Committee Member
Michael D. Schulman, Committee Member
Abstract: Despite popular claims that racism and discrimination are no longer salient issues in contemporary society, racial minorities continue to experience disparate treatment in everyday public interactions. The context of full-service restaurants is one such public setting wherein racial minority patrons, African Americans in particular, encounter discriminate treatment. To further understand the pervasiveness and processes implicated in restaurant servers’ proclivity to discriminate against their racial minority customers, I analyze primary survey data derived from a local sample of servers (N=200) nested in eighteen restaurant establishments. Subjects were asked a series of questions ascertaining information about the racial climate of their workplaces. I utilize ordinary least squares regression and hierarchical linear modeling to assess the effects of both restaurant- and server-level variables on discriminatory server behaviors. Findings highlight the persistence of everyday racial discrimination in settings of public accommodations. A sizable number of sampled subjects self-reported to discriminate racially in their service delivery. Such discrimination can partially be understood as an adaptation to the economic uncertainty inherent in the institution of tipping. Results show that servers are motivated to discriminate statistically in their service delivery, to some extent, due to perceived differences in tipping and dining behaviors across racial groups. However, the economic motivation to provide discriminate service explains only a modest amount of the overall variation in servers’ self-reported discriminatory behaviors. Results also reveal a considerable amount of anti-black server discourse within the cultures of restaurant establishments and such discourse is shown to be an important factor towards understanding both within and between-restaurant variation in server discrimination. Contrary to my expectations, the proportion of minorities working as servers/bartenders was not shown be a salient organizational-level predictor of discriminatory server behaviors. These research findings are interpreted as reflecting processes of everyday racism in contemporary America. Implications of these findings for restaurant officials are discussed and directions for future research are outlined.
Date: 2009-12-02
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3686

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