#InStarbucksWhileBlack

Enough.

Just enough.

Last week’s news of two African American men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for the heinous crime of waiting for friends is bringing race, bias, and #BlackLivesMatter to a sickening new low.

If you haven’t heard the story, this is what happened. A zealous Starbucks manager called Philadelphia police about two Black men waiting for friends at a Starbucks as she perceived them as a threat. One of the young men asked for the key code to the restroom and was told he had to purchase something first. Witnesses say other patrons were given the restroom code without making purchases.

Starbucks, which touts its coffee shop as a place for people to gather, had become an avatar for the Philadelphia area’s gentrification. Enough so that the two black men became victims of “out-of-place” policing, whereby people who don’t appear to fit into the area, were perceived by the Starbucks manager as a threat.

Six Philadelphia police officers responded to the call (overkill on the number of responders) and asked the two men to leave with no reason given. After three refusals, the men were handcuffed and arrested for trespassing. The two men were released nine hours (a full work day) later after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office decided they had not broken any laws.

I think I would have gone crazy sitting in a jail cell waiting for an outcome when I KNEW I hadn’t committed a crime. But here’s the rub. I ooze White Privilege looking at my appearance and this would NEVER have happened to me. I have no qualms that the restroom code would have been offered to me, without ordering first, and no questions asked.

It is beyond enough.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has ordered “unconscious bias,” whatever this means, training for store managers. Johnson has apologized for, in his words, reprehensible circumstances leading to the arrest.

But is this enough?

Racial profiling training has not made a dent in the systemic societal bias Americans cannot seem to overcome. Even after high profile cases of Trayvon Martin, Eric Harris, and Walter Scott, slayings of unarmed black men showcase a culture of police violence.

Clearly, racial profiling and bias are not only limited to local police departments. The Starbucks incident has magnified one of the inherent reasons that #BlackLivesMatter came into existence.

Race and bias training will not change the fact, as Americans, that we have chosen to discriminate against people who do not look like our vision of a homogeneous white society.

This same racial bias is not limited to African Americans. It’s shared among Muslim American, Mexican American, Native American, and an unconscionable number of other nonwhite communities.

Minority majority cities are on an upward trend, especially in urban areas. My prediction is that the tilting point for a decrease in racial discrimination will begin to occur as the White population becomes the minority. Well, indulge me in hoping that a day comes in the future, regardless of the reason, that mothers do not have to educate their minority children on blending in, and that a different set of rules applies to them with police interactions.

This will be enough.

Photo Credit: jjbers Flickr via Compfight cc

Dori Owen

Dori Owen is a storyteller, writing from small town Arizona, after living a few decades in California as an LA Wild Child, with a brief stop in Reno. She settled into grownup life as a project manager, collecting an MBA and a few husbands along the way. She is a shown artist and her favorite pastime is upcycling old furniture and decor she finds from thrift stores. She lives with the cat who came to visit but stayed. The love of her life is her grown son who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her essays and poems have been published in RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I, StigmaFighters Vol 2, and Love Notes From Humanity. Her blogs have been featured on The Lithium Chronicles, Open Thought Vortex, Sudden Denouement, and The Mighty.

3 thoughts on “#InStarbucksWhileBlack

  1. Tracy Lea Ogden Reply

    Well said Dori!

    While it is true there are two sides to every story and it appears we don’t have the full back story of what happened when two black men were asked to leave Starbucks for what appeared to be racially based reasons. People who think racism doesn’t exist have blinders on. After spending a few years dating a black man, I am loath to admit it happens in Canada also. Though he assured me it was far worse down south (he spent 20 years in the US).

    Here are some of the delightful activities I participated in and witnessed while we were together:

    1 – Shopping while black: this is when you are eyeballed the entire time you are in a retail establishment, or followed around by the security, asked to show receipts after leaving the store, etc.

    2 – Driving while black: this is when you get pulled over so often for no reason you stop asking “Is there a problem officer” because you know they are just going to make something up anyways.

    3 – Renting an apartment while black: this is when you fill out the application online, get offered the space because of your excellent credit, great references and six figure income but when you go to sign the lease in person the apartment is suddenly “rented out to someone else”. Or you don’t even get as far as the application because they have already seen you.

    4 – Dressing while black: this is when you can’t wear the same casual clothing during leisure time and sporting events as everyone else, and have to consider how other people feel about your fashion choices, because you are tall and fit and you have discovered that a branded t-shirt and a pair of shorts is too “gang banger” and makes them feel intimidated.

    5 – Dressing while black again: this is when you are dressed for work and people ask you where you are going “all dressed up” despite wearing a suit everyday to work at your law firm and standing next to a bunch of white dudes also wearing suits.

    6 – And here is one that was mostly directed at me, we will call it = Dating while being a white woman and your boyfriend is a black man: Having the delightful experience of total strangers and even friends and family comment on your partners genitalia, “Is it true what they say about …?” I actually experienced far ruder and harsher comments referring to his race in general, but I refuse to type them out and give them any power.

    It all sounds a little bit comical, and he took it in stride, shrugged and laughed it off. But enduring this on a daily basis was just plain hurtful. I don’t want a fellow being to have to just “get used to” this type of behavior. Come on people of North America – We can do better than this!

  2. Susan P. BlevinsSusan P. Blevins Reply

    Amen to all you write Dori. This was yet another stain on our already besmirched so-called democracy.
    xoSusan

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