Black Folks Admit It: We Are Napkin-Holics

February 7, 2013  |  



Normally I don’t like to engage in stereotypes however if there is one behavior, which could be classify along racial lines, I would think it could be black folks love affair with napkins.

Yesterday I was at McDonalds, getting some sort of salad with what tasted a lot like crushed up Doritos on it (that is what I get for getting a salad from McDonalds), when I notice that the drive thru cashier forgot my napkins. I asked her for a couple. She apologized and then reached behind her cashier’s terminal and came back with what can be best describe as a small evergreen shrub. The stack was so fat that if you counted the leafs, you could probably determine from what tree in which deforested part of the rainforest your napkins originated.

Why would she think I wanted all of these napkins? Oh I see: it’s because I’m black. I give the cashier the side eye. She, overworked, underpaid and probably not knowing what my problem is, gives me one right back…

Yeah I know, generalizations are bad and most times are not reflective of an entire community. Hello? Like, some of us actually use paper towels. However with my years of experience in the restaurant industry (working through high school and college in some capacity as a waitress/bartender), has made me witness to how glaringly neurotic our napkin consumption is at times. A good server worth his or her apron in tips, knows that if your guests happen to be folks of a darker hue, you better make damn sure to come to the table fully equipped with the right amount of disposable napkins. What is the right amount? Who knows for sure. But to be on the safe side, just bring about half a sleeve.

I have never been a napkin hog. Two to four (depending on the ply-count) disposable napkins per dining experience is enough for me – unless I am eating something messy like ribs. In which case I will grab about two or three more. However in instances where the napkin distribution power is out of my control, I also end up with more napkins that I could possibly need. So then I am stuck with all this paper product, which I really don’t have a use for but as an Eco-friendly citizen, just can’t seem to garner the necessary fortitude to throw them away. So I stick them in my drawer in the kitchen with intentions of eventually finding some purpose or task around the house to us them. That chance never comes. Mainly because I always forget that this accumulation of fast food restaurant disposable napkins even exists – until I come home again with a fresh stack to add to the collection.

The most contradictory thing I have noticed about black folks disposable paper consumption is how even in our waste, we can still manage to conserve. For instance, last summer my brother and I, along with my four nieces and nephews, were having lunch at the buffet (Oh shut up! It was the kids choice and the children love the buffet). After noticing that none of us grabbed anything to clean our hands with while eating, my brother goes, retrieves some napkins from the dispenser and then plopped them in the middle of the table. The pile was so thick that it made a thud sound when it hit the table top. I spent the rest of the lunch counting how many napkins we used. The answer: sixteen. Out of the gazillion napkins my brother took, we only ended up using less than a third of them. Curiously, I asked my brother, “Why the heck did you get all of these napkins?” He shrugged, “they free, why not?” Then he paused, thought about it some more and said, “Plus the kids stay spilling stuff.” Well I guess in some instances having lots of napkins makes sense but what about the fate of the rest of these napkins? My brother shrugged again, “I dunno. I usually leave them on the table. What they [eatery] do with the unused ones is on them.” He has a point there too.

Internationally, but more specifically to Western countries, our environmental policies are pretty warped and there are certainly a lot more impactful ways we can reduce our carbon footprints as a species than worrying about how many disposable napkins black folks have stuffed into the glove compartment box of their vehicle. And according to this article in Treehugger, the disposable paper napkin produces less grams of greenhouse gas emissions than its cotton counterpart. However as it has been reported that the average American goes through 2,200 napkins a year, I can’t help but also cringe at the little ways in which we basically co-signed the mindless degradation of the planet – even if we are just talking about a flimsy napkin.

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  • Dichu eba realy lub mehSteebie

    My mom gets on me all the time because I don’t “select-a-size”

  • Zettai

    The problem with drive-thrus is that they will either give you one napkin or 100!

  • hiswomanandlovingit

    See all you people complaining about too many napkins, you are the people who are in the restroom doing the pee dance because you didn’t take enough and there is none in the stall!! Well, I am laughing at you because I never have to drip dry for I AM THE NAPKIN LADY!! MUWAHAHAHAAHA!!!

  • Candacey Doris

    I must admit napkins are a life saver. But in a restaraunt i make a point to use as little as possible. Having done inventory before (though not at a restaraunt) I know that just about every business goes through napkins like water. And it costs. I will say that if a server does not bring at least 2 per person their tip is in danger of dropping though.


    The large consumption of napkins probably comes from people thinking napkins are cheap.

  • realadulttalk

    I don’t know why we have to discuss the fact that I take 10 napkins every morning from Wawa. Lol

  • U need more ppl!

    FML! I just read an entire article about napkins and commented……

  • KayBee

    Lol. Next we’ll be talking about those paper plates…I try to be environmentally conscious, but without fail, when I spend time with my family, they are ALWAYS buying paper plates because they don’t want to wash dishes. OTOH, they REFUSE to use a dishwasher because “that’s a waste of money.” Ummm…not as much as buying all them paper plates!

    • Charing Ball

      Yeah my dad was a paper plate person for many years. As a teen, I used to love it because it meant on my visits to his house, I had little dishes to wash (in his house, I was the dishwasher), LOL

  • AJ389

    Waste of time article even though I do have a stack in my glove compartment right now.

    • Charing Ball

      Well thank you for taking time out of your obviously busy day to click the link, read and then leave a comment. Or maybe you didn’t read it? Perhaps you just click the link and left a comment because you already knew this wasn’t your cup of tea (or napkin)? But then again, that doesn’t make much sense because why would anyone take precious time out of their day to click a link and leave a comment on a post, which they feel is a waste of time?

      • AJ389

        Oh please forgive me your highness I thought the comment section was for posting comments. Now that you have allowed me to see the error in my way won’t you please spare me from punishment. Thank you so much your dumb *ss honor.

        • Charing Ball

          You’re quite welcome. The jester is always welcomed in the your highness’ court.

          • AJ389

            Amazingly that is the same thing your father said when your mother informed him she was pregnant with you. So now, can we all be one big happy family?

          • AJ389

            Amazingly that is the same thing your father said when your mother told him she was pregnant with you. Now can’t we all just be one big happy family?

            • Charing Ball

              “Now can’t we all just be one big happy family?” Funny you should say that: Just last night, I said the exact same thing to your dad. Sure child. Just make sure, on your way home tonight, you grab a stack of napkins., ‘kay? 😉

              • rzakia

                Are you two for real? Either way you both just gave me a good laugh this morning. Thanks!!!

              • mac

                As Erykah B might put it, you’re an writer and you’re sensitive about your sh*t. I get that.

                But one thing you MN writers have to accept is, not everyone is going to, or is obligated to like or praise your work. Sometimes you miss the mark. Deal with it, and come with something better next time.

                You have no idea how incredibly unprofessional and unbecoming it is to go back and forth with your readers. Some of you are notorious for this. Stop it. It’s NOT a good look.

  • Reese

    ::lowers my head in shame:: I am sad to say I am guilty of napkin abuse. I usually get more than enough and end up throwing some away. I know I need to do better.

  • She Speaks


    if I ever end up with extra napkins I just save them for my car and use them for tissue.