On April 12th, two Black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They had not placed an order; they were just sitting at a table in a public coffee shop, waiting for their friend to arrive. And an employee working at the Starbucks called the police on them. When the police asked the two Black men to leave, they did not, because it was absurd that they were being asked to leave a public store; they were waiting for their friend. When their friend arrived, he saw his two friends being put into handcuffs for “trespassing”. There is footage circling the internet of the two men being put into handcuffs and taken out of the Starbucks.
Quite frankly, it is absolutely painful to watch.
These two Black men were sitting in their public Starbucks, waiting for their friend. That is it. This is, very obviously, an act of outright, overt racism. The female employee would not have questioned two White men who were sitting in a Starbucks, even if they did not order anything. This employee was very clearly profiling these two Black men; she assumed that, because of their race, they were doing something they should not have been doing. To her, they could not have just been waiting for their friend. To her, these men, just by existing, by using their public coffee shop, were wrong.
She is not the only one at fault in the situation, however, as the cops actually arrested these men on the grounds that they were “trespassing”. How can these men be trespassing in a public Starbucks? This is a chain of stores that, supposedly, is open to all people. As we have now learned, this is actually not the case. This is a perfect example of the same racial profiling and explicit racism that takes place right before police violence against Black individuals.
This situation has upset me greatly, because I cannot fathom what these men must be thinking. They were just waiting for their friend, and they ended up arrested for sitting. For sitting. Starbucks released a statement (two days later, by the way), stating that they were going to shut down their stores for one day in May to hold company training sessions for employees regarding discrimination and racial bias. While I would like to believe this is a step in the right direction, I am skeptical. What will this “training” consist of? Are employees required to attend? Racism and racial bias is not something you can fix in one day. It is not something you can teach in a couple of hours. With the popularity and the weight Starbucks carries as one of the most successful companies in the world, there must be more done to ensure that situations like these do not keep happening. But how? Should stores like Starbucks begin implementing required informational sessions regarding racial bias for all new employees? Would this help at all?