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Hand Jive

There is a young lady (white) who works in my office that frequently comes to me to discuss race issues. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy being the “black people expert” on staff.

The other day she comes in and tells me about a situation with one of the ladies that works at the desk in our library.

Our library sells coffee. Good coffee. For cheap. One morning the young lady I work with went over to buy a dollar cup. She placed her money on the counter and promptly got fussed at by the lady at the desk. The gist of the fussing was – put the money in my hand, are you racist, do you not want to touch me, etc., etc.

Young lady comes back flabbergasted. Can’t believe that putting money on the counter was so offensive. So I told her that from my experience black people (in America) generally expect their currency – debit card, cash, change, whatever – to be handed back to them and that slapping money or a card on the counter is a big no-no.

(I am always amazed that my mother places money on counters to be picked up by cashiers!)

Anyhoo, the young lady thought it unfair that she was attacked verbally for doing something she always does regardless of the race of the person behind the counter. She didn’t feel as though she should have to adjust her MO because of the other lady’s POV.

I told her she could choose to hand the woman the money next time or continue to get the side-eye and be labeled a racist. The choice was hers. Whether or not that’s fair, I don’t know.  She’s now pretty determined not to  hand the lady behind the counter her money. Ever.

What do y’all think? Is the burden on my coworker to “prove” she’s not racist by handing money to the clerk or should the clerk put aside her feelings and realize that how a person pays is not (necessarily) an indicator of negative feelings towards an entire group of people?

Curious to hear what y’all think.



18 thoughts on “Hand Jive

  1. Interesting. We have a lot of Korean businesses in our area–I’ve found that although they hand customers their change, their custom is to take the money off of the counter when you pay. I don’t think your white coworker is racist, but I’ve been a cashier and found it annoying when a customer din’t put the money in my hand.

  2. I don’t think that’s just a black thing. Any cashier of any race should be handed the money or credit card. To me, it’s kind of rude to put your payment on the counter for them to pick up, as if you don’t want to accidentally touch a lowly disgusting cashier.

    At the very least, she’s rude. At the most, she is racist. Wouldn’t she not want to be either? And then how does she expect to receive her change — in her hand or back on the counter?

    You need to read “How to be Black” by Baratunde Thurston. There is a chapter titled “How to be the Black Employee” that discusses just what you mentioned — the expectation that you have to be the expert on all things black. It’s hilarious.

  3. I don’t think she is racist. But I do think that it’s rude to put money down on a counter when I’m sure most times the cashier has their hand out to accept the money. Money is already dirty and I’m sure that the counter is dirtier.

  4. Before I worked at Wally World (as a cashier) in college, I used to think it was the difference in generations (ie older people doing it). I soon discovered that was not the case. I’ve never thought (or heard) of that action as being a sign of racism. Now rude? Yes ma’am twenty times over. I really dislike seeing people do this, customers and employees alike.

  5. I’m petty I guess. When I worked at Best Buy I didn’t like when customers did it and I’d always place their change back on the counter. I never really thought anyone was racist (even in AL) just rude. If they don’t want to touch me to give me the money they probably don’t want me to touch them to give them their change.

  6. I never think of that behavior as racist but my mother does. She tells stories of store clerks being fine handing people money until they got to her, when they would place the money on the counter instead of touching her hand.

    I think they share the burden and they both need to realize people can do whatever the heck they want to. But with that comes the right for others to interpret our behavior however they want to. If it’s not illegal or abusive, I’d just ignore it — from both perspectives. The clerk should realize your coworker may not want to touch her hand (because she doesn’t like to touch black people, is a germaphobe, has always done it that way, whatever) and your coworker should realize the lady may always think she’s racist. lol…

  7. Racist? Tis a bit of a stretch if you ask me. In my opinion the cashier/desk lady is waaaay in the wrong for voicing that opinion directly to her. So very unprofessional. You cant make people into the person you want them to be. Maybe the lady really doesnt wanna touch her, or she is a racist, or some other reason. It’s not her job to try to change that. What IS her job is to take the money for the (good) coffee and that’s what she should have done.

    Now as far as handing money in hands, I have never given it any thought. I always put it in the hands but I dont partically care to swap skin cells. But I guess I could see putting it on the counter as rude, but racist? I dont know if I would automatically go there.

  8. If my hand is extended and you put my money on the counter, I consider you a rude azz. Depending on how you’ve interacted with me thus far, I may consider you a rude azz bigot.

    IMO, a) clerk could be crazy, or b) your coworker is rude/oblivious/insiderate, or c) a& b. I can’t see going off on someone over this. But if I saw you every day and every day reached for your payment and you placed it on the counter not picking up on the social cue…. then a crazy person might mention it.

    The fact that this person approaches you about racial issues on the regular makes me think she is the one with the problem. Doesn’t mean she is racist, but something is amiss.

  9. I wasn’t brought up to see it as racist, rather than plain rude. It’s a matter of manners. Some have them, some don’t. If she doesn’t think hers need improving, not your problem.

  10. I think its rude..ESPECIALLY if her hand is out. If she was away preparing the coffee or something and you put it down on the counter…not rude. When anyone put money on the counter for me and my hand was out…I made a HUGE point of putting their change on the counter…usually by dropping some of it on the floor.

    Yes…I can be extremely petty.

  11. I don’t care what color you are, putting money on the counter is rude. There are times when I have found myself laying money on the counter to count it and the person tries to grab it and I stop them. I just think it is more respectful to hand people money in their hand.

  12. It was, at one point, racist. There was an effort not to take money directly from black people or to give them their change back in their hand becasue blacks were considered beneath them (white folks). Jim Crow days – yes ma’am. In this instance, I do not think the lady’s intent was to be racist at all though. I think the cashier may be either a bit older – folks in their early 60’s would have had to endure this – or just a bit sensitive due to recent events. As someone who was once a cashier, it is simply convenient and respectful to place the change in one’s hand. Don’t know why, but it is.

  13. Rude, yes. Racist, no. It’s not up to your coworker to prove she’s not racist. If that were the case, she’d be “proving” herself constantly to all types of people.

  14. What I read as your question wasn’t whether or not this act was racist, but whether or not she should have the burden to “prove” she’s not racist… So I’ll comment on that.

    I don’t look at it as a burden to prove anything, but rather as an opportunity. However…how many black people have had the burden to prove they’re innocent of something with white people? So what makes her think she shouldn’t have to prove anything if someone is perceiving her in a certain way? I’m just sayin.

    Now, I don’t think what she did was racist, but if I were in this situation I would handle it differently. When my coworker at my last job called me a racist I pulled her aside, asked her to explain to me what I’d done that had left her feeling that way (total bs, but perception is reality for the person perceiving it), acknowledged, apologized and then calmly explained my own position without getting defensive. In the end we worked it out, although there’s no doubt in my mind she still thought I was a racist. After that I admittedly never wanted to have a conversation with her again, but I remained pleasant. Most importantly I remained secure with the fact that I know I’m not a racist, but didn’t discount the way she felt. I happen to believe feelings are valid even when I don’t agree with them.

    I don’t think her refusing to hand the woman the money will prove any kind of point. Like you said “she could choose to hand the woman the money next time or continue to get the side-eye and be labeled a racist.” We can’t change how people perceive us or receive us, but we can change our own actions. Choice is hers.

  15. It is rude but I’ve also experienced my fair share of white folks whispering about not putting money in my hands. I’ve made it a point to never put money on the counter.

    So no, she doesn’t have to prove that she is not racist but it would be nice if she just put the money in her hand and keep it moving.

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