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Starbucks has a Racism Problem, but the Police, both Racist and Authoritarian, are Worse

Shut up or you’re under arrest

 

At a time when we have over a millions young high school and college students march in the streets demanding a ban on assault-style semi-automatic rifles, and an end to mass shootings, as well as continued protests over police shootings of unarmed and all too often black or latino young people, it might seem trivial to see a wave of national outrage over an incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks shop involving two black men who were arrested by police for refusing a manager’s order to leave because they weren’t buying anything.

But when you look at the story closer it becomes clear that, as horrible as the Starbucks manager at this one store, and Starbuck corporate management, have been shown to be, this ugly incident really is also about the more serious issue of the increasingly militarized and authoritarian behavior of our nation’s police — a problem which we as a society have come to accept as normal.

Consider for a moment what transpired: Two 23-year-old black men, Rashon Nelson and Dante Robinson, casually but well-dressed, last week entered a Starbucks located in a toney mostly white residential section of central Philadelphia at Spruce and 18th Street and sat down to wait for a white property developer who was going to discuss a potential real estate deal with them. One of the men, Nelson, needed to use the restroom, which required obtaining a key or an access code as many urban coffee shops do. He was denied access by the store manager, allegedly because they hadn’t purchased anything yet. The manager then went over to the two seated men and told them they had to leave, according to Nelson. Offended because, of course, many customers — at least white ones — routinely use Starbucks restrooms without buying something first, they went back to their seats to wait for the person coming to meet them, as countless people do who arrive early for a planned meeting at Starbucks.

The manager then took things further, dialing 911 and calling for the police to come and evict the two. It was an outrageous act, and would have been even if she had waited until the men had been sitting for some time without buying anything. After all, Starbucks patrons (at least white ones), routinely go into Starbucks, sit for long periods of time talking, reading or using electronic equipment, and using the restrooms, and then leave. Reportedly a local white jogger actually trotted in and used the restroom at this particular Starbucks as this incident was developing, without anyone complaining or stopping him. I myself, a white freelance writer who works at home all day, often take a break and visit my local Starbucks to work for a while with my phone and computer, just to have some human contact. I may meet a friend from the neighborhood, or just hear other conversation while I work. Often I’ll buy a coffee, but not necessarily if I’m already over-caffeinated. Nobody bothers me, or any others I see just sitting and reading a paper or talking with a friend, again often at an empty table devoid of coffee product. But admittedly as I think of it, most of those sitting around staring into computers or smartphones or reading are white or Asian, not black.



story | by Dr. Radut