The survey of 200 servers -- 86 percent of whom were white -- at 18 full-service chain restaurants in central North Carolina found 38.5 percent of servers said a customers' race influenced their level of service at least some of the time, North Carolina State said in a release Monday.
Servers said they perceived African-American customers to be impolite and bad tippers, the study found.
"Many people believe that race is no longer a significant issue in the United States," Sarah Rusche, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the university and co-author of a paper describing the study, said in a statement issued by the university Thursday. "But the fact that a third of servers admit to varying their quality of service based on customers' race, often giving African-Americans inferior service, shows that race continues to be an issue in our society."
The study also found 52.8 percent of servers said they saw other servers discriminate against African-American customers, while only 10.5 percent of respondents said they never engage in or observe racial discrimination in their workplaces.
"'Tableside racism' is yet another example in which African-Americans are stereotyped and subsequently treated poorly in everyday situations," Rusche said. "Race continues to be a significant barrier to equal treatment in restaurants and other areas of social life."
The study, titled "Quantitative Evidence of the Continuing Significance of Race: Tableside Racism in Full-Service Restaurants," was co-authored by Dr. Zachary Brewster of Wayne State University and was published online in the Journal of Black Studies earlier this year.
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