J’s Fresh Kitchen and Bar recently responded to a case of an assault of a customer after she apparently kissed a woman at the establishment. They were then kicked out.

In their statement, they claimed that they will take unspecified action to remedy the situation and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

The statement was posted on their Instagram account. In the comments, they were asked about the discrimination practice at the establishment. The issue is that black people are routinely denied or delayed service in favour of white people. In their reply, J’s claimed that this is because of tip culture and the fact that black people rarely tip.

This practice is common in establishments that are favoured by foreigners who are almost always white people. You would go to such an establishment and struggle to get service as a black person. It is however rare for the management of these places to confirm and by extension condone such behaviour by their staff. The funny thing is the staff are almost always black Kenyans. Alchemist bar, Artcaffe, and J’s Karen have also been accused of the thing (Alchemist, J’s Karen and J’s Fresh & Kitchen are owned by the same people). The situation at Alchemist and Artcaffe is however a bit better nowadays after repeated outcry from black Kenyans.

An interesting thing to note that is black people are usually the majority at J’s and its unusual that they would condone this practice. Also, if you interrogate tipping culture, you will find that it comes from a place of exploitation where restaurant owners do not pay their staff enough and so have to rely on tips to get by. Going by this, you would expect then that J’s should pay their staff a proper salary so that they can be able to survive on it.

Also, how would the staff know that black people won’t tip just by looking at them. Additionally, judging people by their race is discrimination which against the Kenyan constitution.

Section 27 of the constitution reads as follows;

(1) Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.
(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms.
(3) Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
(4) The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.
(5) A person shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against another person on any of the grounds specified or contemplated in clause (4).
(6) To give full effect to the realisation of the rights guaranteed under this Article, the State shall take legislative and other measures, including affirmative action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantage suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination.
(7) Any measure taken under clause (6) shall adequately provide for any benefits to be on the basis of genuine need.
(8) In addition to the measures contemplated in clause (6), the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

As Boniface Mwangi noted in a post on Instagram, this practice is common and even happened to Barack Obama when he visited Kenya.

“Kenyan waiters are notorious for serving white people faster than anyone else. In his memoirs, Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama writes how waiters refused to serve him and his sister Auma at a Nairobi five star hotel. “When we got to the New Stanley Hotel I took the opportunity to study the tourists as Auma and I sat down for lunch in the outdoor café. They were everywhere – Germans, Japanese, British, Americans – many of them dressed in safari suits like extras on a movie set. In Hawaii, when we were still kids, my friends and I had laughed at tourists like these, with their sunburns and their pale, skinny legs, basking in the glow of our obvious superiority. Here in Africa, though, the tourists didn’t seem so funny. I felt them as an encroachment, somehow; I found their innocence vaguely insulting. “It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures. “Just then I noticed an American family sit down a few tables from us. Two of the African waiters immediately sprang into action, both of them smiling from one ear to the other. Since Auma and I hadn’t yet been served, I began to wave at the two waiters who remained standing by the kitchen, thinking they must have somehow failed to see us. “For some time they managed to avoid my glance, but eventually an older man with sleepy eyes relented and brought us two menus. His manner was resentful, though, and after several more minutes he showed no signs of ever coming back. “Auma’s face began to pinch with anger, and again I waved to our waiter, who continued in his silence as he wrote down our orders. At this point, the Americans had already received their food and we still had no place settings… Auma stood up. ‘Let’s go.’ She started heading for the exit, then suddenly turned and walked back to the waiter, who was watching us with an impassive stare. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself,’ Auma said to him, her voice shaking… Did our waiter know that black rule had come? Did it mean anything to him?”

In modern Kenya, this practice is wrong and illegal and should not be condoned, least of all by the management. Black Kenyans should boycott J’s and similar places that discriminate them by their skin colour. It is time we take a stand and stop this practice once and for all.