While sitting in my second office, Starbucks, I got the following tweet from a dear friend. "
@EgbertoWillies Here's one to look into involving your favorite workplace." Two black guys peacefully sitting down in a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested after an employee apparently called the police because they hadn't ordered anything.
The story is simple. Like other human beings, a couple of black guys sit down in a Starbucks waiting for a friend. At the time they did not order anything. Of course, anyone frequenting the store knows many people come in and sit to cool off, warm up, or merely to use the free wifi.
Starbucks has the right to ask anyone to leave their premises. But for obvious reasons they don't. Most people are eventual patrons anyway. Apparently this time, an employee singled out two black men as nonpurchasing trespassers and called the cops. A simple incident escalated to an arrest.
What I think is most disconcerting is most of Starbucks patrons just watched. One white guy stood up to call out injustice as Starbucks, and most of their patrons observed two black men demeaned and abused for just being.
Starbucks has since released an apology on Twitter.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores.
The two black men arrested were released without any charges of trespassing or any other. But they had to endure a disruption in their lives for just being who they are.
I am a very frequent patron of Starbucks. In fact, I am there virtually seven days a week, several times a day for several hours a day. I do most of my blogging there. Many stories I write are from interactions with folks there. At my stores here in Kingwood, the baristas are kind and friendly with me all of the times.
No one has disrespected me at any Starbucks throughout Texas, DC, California, Washington, and other states to date. In fact, the opposite is true. But I can't remember ever going to the store without purchasing. It does make one wonder what it would be like if my first presence were that of a non-patron.
The question was rhetorical. Employees of any corporation reflect society as a whole. I attempted to make that point in an article titled "Our police is but the reflection of our alter ego" for those who think there is something special about police officers that should give them more dignity than the population at large. The reality is that it is all about policy. It is incumbent on companies to have strict policies that affirmatively protect all against discriminatory practices. One cannot control peoples' hearts, but a company can and must control their behavior from negatively affecting others.
I will give Starbucks, the corporation, the benefit of the doubt until I see how they resolve this. The employee who called the police must get his due, discipline at least, fired at best to make the point that discrimination is intolerable at Starbucks. Likewise, they must use this incident to expose the behavior of the cops. They must use their platform to highlight this dual injustice that is systemic. A Progressive company like Starbucks can afford to do no less.