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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

What the chief of police in this city of one million people of many races and classes was making clear was that in his view it doesn’t matter what you’’re doing, or whether or not police are making a mistake in trying to make you to stop doing it, or in assuming you are guilty of something when you are not, talking back to officers and refusing what one considers to be an unlawful order — in this case to leave the Starbucks shop — constitutes being defiant, impolite and, ultimately is grounds for your arrest, and for the leveling of the maximum charge arresting officers can come up with. He’s also effectivly saying that if you resist, the police will be justified in taking action that could hurt you: twisting your arms brutally behind your back, holding you in ways that could choke you or break your neck, throwing you face down on the concrete, grinding their knees into your back, punching you, tasing you or ultimately, if they “feel threatened,” shooting you to death. Fortunately, Nelson and Robinson, because they were, as they later said, “scared to death,” remained passive as they were cuffed and taken away, and they were not injured.

Almost a week later, in an “Oops” moment, that same Chief Ross, learning what most Starbucks customers have long known — that Starbucks actually encourages patrons — at least white ones — to meet in its coffee shops and to consider their cafes as a kind of social gathering place where it’s not necessary to immediately buy a product in order to sit and talk, or to do work on a computer, interview for a job or school application, or just chill out — exactly what the two men were telling the arresting officers, in calm if insistent voices, that they were in fact doing. On learning that, and reviewing videos of his officers’ behavior in arresting the two men, the chief backed off and belatedly apologized for the arrests, conceding that his earlier statement had probably "made things worse." .

There is now a growing boycott of Starbucks, which is a good and appropriate response. The company deserves to be called out because its management does appear to be operating with a double standard. In the suburbs, Starbucks restrooms are not even locked and of course anyone can walk in and use one, as I have often done while on a long drive. But in the city, they tend to require either the entering of a code on a touch pad lock, or obtaining a key from the counter, which suggests baristas are using some judgement based upon appearance as to who should be allowed to use the facilities and who shouldn’t be. I've never been turned down when I've asked for a key after just walking in the door.

The real protest, I believe, should be against the police for arresting people for merely standing up for their rights. It should not be illegal to do that.

story | by Dr. Radut