Did you know that the practice of tipping is a relic of slavery in the United States?
According to New York Times reporter and founder of the “1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones, it most certainly is. Hannah-Jones is no stranger to controversy, and her latest foray into the public square comes in the form of a since-deleted tweet in which she claims that “tipping is a legacy of slavery.”
The observation was prompted by MSNBC host Touré Neblett, who criticized the practice of tipping. “What do you think is the purpose of tipping, Touré?” Hannah-Jones asked, knowing full well that the answer is obvious. “Why does it exist?”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and academic then undertook to educate both Touré and her wider Twitter audience. “Tipping is a legacy of slavery and if it’s not optional then it shouldn’t be a tip but simply included in the bill. Have you ever stopped to think why we tip, like why tipping is a practice in the US and almost nowhere else?”
Hannah-Jones is well known for her creative interpretations of history. She was, after all, at the center of the notorious New York Times Magazine issue devoted to the “1619 Project,” an attempt to recast American history as fundamentally tied to slavery, and by “placing the consequences of slavery at the center of the national narrative.” The project sought to memorialize the year 1619—when the first African slaves were said to have arrived in the nascent Virginia colony—as the nation’s true founding date.
“We’ve been taught the history of a country that does not exist,” Hannah-Jones claimed in an interview with the Associated Press.
“We’ve been taught the history of a country that renders us incapable of understanding how we get an insurrection in the greatest democracy on January 6,” she continued, in a reference to a mostly-peaceful protest at the Capitol Building in 2021.
The celebrated academic has a lengthy record of interpreting history through the lens of slavery, but some were less than convinced of the veracity of her latest claim. The historian Phil Magness, who has authored a book called “The 1619 Project: A Critique,” has sparred with Hannah-Jones before—to the point where she’s blocked him completely on social media.
Nevertheless, the two get into it from time to time, as demonstrated by their latest spat. Though the original tweet was deleted, Magness took a screenshot of it, and posted it with the response “Wait, what?” He followed this up by arguing that tipping has existed long before slavery was brought to America—arguing that it appears in a scene in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” published in 1602, and is even mentioned in a European travel guide dating to the 1730s.
Magness’ rebuke must have struck a nerve, as Hannah-Jones now says the claim was meant as satire.
Y’ALL, this was satire.
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) March 22, 2022
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