The coffee booth was not at the framer’s market this week, so I took orders from a few vendors to do a coffee run. A customer heard “Starbucks” in the exchange.
African American Customer: “No, you can’t go to Starbucks. After what they did, boycott Starbucks.”
African American Vendor: “Listen, Starbucks has an engage the community policy. Look, what happened was absolutely an outrage, it hurts, we’re tired. Two black men arrested while waiting for someone. It is awful, but, that was one store, one manager.“
Starbucks is literally my neighbor, we’re in the same building. This location will give a cup of coffee to the homeless. Within the space of a week, the manager called the police when two people were physically fighting in the store. That same manager engaged an emergency protocol when someone vomited in the seating area and to finish the week, called in grief counseling when an employee died in a crash en route to work. I am compelled to speak up for my neighbors, as far as Philadelphia is concerned, they did nothing wrong. Much in the same way Melissa DePino posted the video about the to gentlemen arrested in protest because, they did nothing wrong. So, do something right, question. Question, why the store manager felt the need to call the 911. Question why the manager “didn’t think the police would arrest the men.” Question, why 27,339 Starbucks should be boycotted because of the actions of one manager in one store?
I’m not boycotting Starbucks. I am not stopping anything. You? Maybe in lieu of hashtags, sad faces and likes, question. What would you have done if you were in that Philadelphia Starbucks? Would you have recorded it on your cell phone and posted in protest? Would you have intervened when the manager shouted leave? That question was for non black people. Because really, if one of us had questioned management, we would have been arrested too for inciting a riot. For those of the opinion, the men should have left, pause. If you’ve been a patron of Starbucks, you know people come in, set up their work and never make a purchase. To say the men should have left is to say black men should accept a position of less than. While other people can do this, you are black, you can’t. You will be arrested for “suspicion of trespassing” by 6 police officers and held for 8 hours until Starbucks declines to press charges and you are released.
I am not boycotting Starbucks because this is not a Starbucks issue. As a country, we have to accept that unconscious bias and privilege exist and feed micro aggressions¹. What happened wasn’t rare, it wasn’t a one off, it’s America. I heard someone say, well that wouldn’t happen here in the Bay Area, we’re too diverse. It happened here. W Kamu Bell reflected on his experience of being kicked out of Elmwood cafe in Berkeley. The story is is stunning as he’d eaten there earlier in the day and had returned to join his wife. During a 2015 segment on this American Life², he commented, …we don’t need an apology, we need a reckoning. The recent Starbucks incident is another opportunity to have an open dialog on race. I understand many people are sorry this happened, but me, I am once again scarred.
¹A microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans.