In the late 1800s, tipping was actually frowned upon by many Americans who believed that employers were responsible for paying their workers, not the customers. But that shifted when restaurant owners and railroad companies objected. They argued that tipping was a fair alternative to paying their workers a regular wage. Why? Because these workers were Black.
White employers resented the freedom of their formerly enslaved Black employees. In wanting to keep Black people poor, and thus “inferior” in their eyes, they employed the tipping system. Tipping was a power move. A writer of the day even said, “I could never feel comfortable tipping a white person. Tipping is reserved for Negroes.”
The corrupt tipping system allowed white employers to get free labor, keep Black people impoverished, and maintain the myth of white supremacy. And it’s a sneaky practice that continues today, disproportionately keeping Black folks in impoverished conditions.