Today I’m on location. I’m writing from what has recently been a hot bed of controversy, and even though I just left the bathroom, I haven’t purchased anything. I’m at ground zero. The spot of the crime. The epicenter of the most recent incident sparking debate about racism on the internet. Alright, I’m being hella dramatic (Bay Area term meaning “very”). I’m not sitting at THEE Starbucks in Philadelphia that started all this conversation or the store in Los Angeles that had a second incident days later.
I am sitting at a Starbucks, and I couldn’t help but share my thoughts while sitting here.
First, I am at Starbucks. I haven’t spent my money here today, and the jury is still out on whether I will. I’m not mulling over whether I want to boycott Starbucks or continue to be a customer. I’m just not sure I want coffee right now. I’m not angry at Starbucks. I’m satisfied by the fact that Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a public apology, personally met with the two men, and is closing ALL EIGHT THOUSAND US stores to educate employees about racial bias. Stated here.
I have been impressed with how quickly Johnson and Starbucks have identified that what happened was wrong. Starbucks came to that conclusion much faster than some of the people I’ve seen pontificating on social media about “waiting for all the facts.”
I think there is great wisdom in not jumping to conclusions. I think it’s human decency to give the benefit of the doubt. Humans do and say wrong things. I can forgive people for that. I’ve been forgiven for that. Chances are you have too. I can’t forgive however the kind of arrogant supremacy that doesn’t allow a person to see the obvious racial bias right in front of their eyes or in their own hearts. Not because I don’t want to, but because people in that position don’t want it. How do you pardon a transgression that isn’t being confessed but denied instead?
It’s interesting to see denial at work. Human beings have an ability God didn’t give other animals on this planet. We have the ability to deny the reality of what our senses and intellect tell us are certainty. It’s actually a very healthy part of the grief process. It helps us absorb the emotional blow of something traumatic happening in our lives. There is nothing wrong with being in this stage of grief provided we move on to the other stages in the grief cycle.
It seems that denial is the only stage America’s dominant culture knows when it comes to traumatic incidents of racial bias and inequality. People in the majority seem to struggle with the notion that people are still mistreated, oppressed, and targeted by human beings and institutions in America. When faced with video evidence, “we should wait for all the facts”. When faced with the stories of personal experience from POC some from the majority culture present data to discredit the experience. That, my dear friends, is D E N I A L, and it’s probably time to come outside of that emotional fortress and face the ugly truth.
That reality is POC are still struggling for equal footing in America. A quick google search can reveal statistics of incarceration, unemployment, household income, or home ownership rates that are asymmetrical when compared to the same rates of those in the dominant culture. You can also hear or read it in the subtle comments people make about POC when there is an incident that makes National news. I’ve heard things like: “If things are so bad here, why don’t those people go back to where they came from”. Those words are stooped in the idea that the people who “belong here” are those whose European Ancestors “built this country.” It reinforces the belief that those in the majority are native and everyone else is a foreigner in America. Most people wouldn’t tell the co-owner of their house to leave over a disagreement. In fact, because they are co-owners it’s incumbent upon both parties to figure out how to come to a mutual understanding of how to live together.
Kevin Johnson sat down with the two young men who in his own words didn’t deserve what happened to them. I listened to him express something I’ve said many times. Proximity to another human being whose ethnicity is different than yours gives you a more compassionate perspective.
Philadelphia police and others from the dominant culture took a more sadly predictable stance. It was more denial and shaming of the victims in this story. I suppose in our lifetime this will be how the story goes, but we took step forward this time by how proactive Starbucks has been. That is encouraging. Often times the injustices that happen to people have a more tragic ending where culpability unfairly rests on the shoulders of the victims. That wasn’t the case this time. Well done Kevin Johnson and Starbucks. Oh, by the way I did buy a cold foam cascara. I didn’t really like it. 🤷🏾♂️
As always, I’d like to leave you with a couple of questions.
Who do you typically give the benefit of the doubt to when you hear stories like the one coming out of the Philadelphia Starbucks?
How do you feel Starbucks has handled this?