SBA/RR Challenge, Current Events, Starbucks Memories and Starbucks Incident in Philly

As most everyone knows now, an ugly incident took place in a Starbucks in Philadelphia. 

A Starbucks employee called 911 to complain that two men were in the store refusing to make a purchase.  Police were dispatched, arrested the men, and took them to the police station.

The men were black, and some immediately called the arrest a racist act, but things seem to be more complicated than that. 

Starbucks is a private business, and at least some stores have a policy that you can’t use the bathroom unless you buy something.  The two men arrested claimed they were waiting on a friend.  The store employee felt that the men were loitering.  The Starbucks in the 1800 block of Spruce is in a fairly gentrified area of Philadelphia, according to reports, and some have ventured that the act may have been engendered by perceived wealth disparity with neighborhood residents.  Not every black person thinks that this was a case of racism.

Since the incident the CEO of Starbucks has apologized.  The employee is no longer working at the store, but we don’t know whether that employee was fired or simply transferred.

My experience with Starbucks began in the early 1990s in Seattle. 


Curt Cobain

Looking more mainstream than most of the Ave. residents in the early 1990s.

Curt Cobain had just died, and The Last Exit on Brooklyn (a ‘60s coffee house seminal in starting the coffee culture in Seattle) had closed. The “Ave” in the University of Washington District was a hangout for every sort of “alternative” person imaginable.  There were tattoos, piercings, hair dyed Manic Panic colors, and there was a coffee stand on almost every corner with a barista making coffee for the rain-soaked and chilled residents of the city.

Residents of the Ave slept on the street in some cases and used the coffee shop restrooms.  I can understand how Starbucks’ policy of requesting a purchase before use of the facilities may have started.

I remember meeting a couple on the street near the University of Washington campus whose faces I can still see vividly.  He had a homemade tattoo of a spider on the end of his nose with a spider web covering his face.  He looked angry, was older than she, and his spider looked like a prison tattoo.

The girl, by contrast, was young, had piercings, one half of her head was shaved with a multicolor tattoo all within her hairline, and on the other side of her head her hair was spiked and dyed green.

He glared at me as they walked by.  She was staring at the ground.

While they were extreme, it was not by much.  Starbucks was already rising to the level of being successful enough to go public.  The company had a ready supply of “hippie kids” there and as Starbucks spread the stores seemed to prefer to hire alternative kids.  Because there were very few minority residents in Seattle then, those alternative kids were white.

In recent years, though, things have changed.   We have a Starbucks here, but it is in an Engle’s grocery, and the employees that make your coffee concoction look just like everyone else in this area, white and working class, and that’s what I’ve noticed around the South.  Unless the Starbucks is in a college town there are no hippie kids behind the counter.  In areas where there are significant numbers of black or Hispanic residents that is reflected in the employee mix.

What bothers me most about this incident, I think, is that the confrontation at the Starbucks escalated to the point that the police were called and the two men were arrested.  Things have changed so much in America.

When I was a college student hitchhiking around the Northwest I got stuck in Pocatello, Idaho.  I spent the day moving through town with my thumb out and finally around dusk I went into a 24 hour diner, threw my duffel bag on the seat and ordered a cup of coffee and nothing to eat because I had no money.  A middle aged woman brought me a cup of coffee and every hour or so asked if I needed a refill. 

I spent the whole night in the diner and was never bothered by anyone.  I looked scruffy.  I had been working and living in the same clothes all summer, and had a beard.  The next morning I got back out on the road, and eventually got a ride all the way to the western part of Nebraska.

I wasn’t hassled, much less arrested, for loitering, but I don’t know how I would have been treated had I been black, Hispanic or Indian, and that is the innocence that has been referred to as White Privilege.




Views: 1132

Comment by Rodney Roe on April 19, 2018 at 11:46am

Jonathan, I heard in one on-air discussion that the Starbucks is adjacent to a recreation area, or actually in it, and the men thought that the space in Starbucks was public property.  I have not been able to find any verification of that statement.  Do you know?

I think it is pretty clear that the person who called the police was racist.  The question is whether the company has a racist culture, and I doubt it.  Closing all of the stores for sensitivity training is extreme.  It might have been a PR move, or the CEO may know that there is a problem and that by taking this extreme move he is sending a clear message to employees that suck action will not be tolerated.

About supporting your local coffee house; there were three here when we moved here.  They all went out of business during the 2008 recession.  Starbucks filled the void.  A coffee house in a grocery store is a pretty sterile, soulless environment.  I would much rather have a Last Exit kind of place.  When my kids first left home and ended up in Seattle we could call the Last Exit and ask to speak to her (no cell phones then) and she would either be there, or the person who answered the phone knew where she went.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 19, 2018 at 11:47am

Somehow if I were in that position I think that if this happened to a couple of White guys waiting to meet me at a Starbucks I’d be a whole lot more surprised. I can’t help thinking that. 

There can be excuses for any given individual case if you look hard enough, but once you look at the aggregate you realize that all these individually questionable (not by me) add up to a pattern that isn’t questionable. 

Comment by koshersalaami on April 19, 2018 at 11:53am

They wouldn’t leave because they had an appointment with a guy who was coming to meet them. That’s why they were there. Look at the second video, about the 45 second mark. The guy who came to meet them is asking the cops what they did, incredulously. 

Comment by Anna Herrington on April 19, 2018 at 12:05pm

I saw the video, their colleague must've been really surprised - and yes, it likely wouldn't have gotten to cuffing if they'd been white. I'm fully there on that point.

But If I'd been in the exact same situation I'd have left as asked - and waited outside for the colleague and bitched and moaned about being asked to leave followed by multiple emails to the company. I'd not wait until cops are called because I refuse to leave. I don't know anyone who would.

BUT part of your comment is exactly why I assume it is racism, due to the overriding treatment of blacks in this country:

There can be excuses for any given individual case if you look hard enough, but once you look at the aggregate you realize that all these individually questionable (not by me) add up to a pattern that isn’t questionable. 

I just don't get what these guys were thinking in refusing to leave, especially considering how poorly blacks are treated far too often. (And I've been broke often enough to know sometimes there's no way to buy even a $2. coffee....) 

But I'm not arguing any of the main points of here. And Starbucks is doing right, as far as I understand.

I just don't get those two guys' reaction of refusing to leave, that is the unusual part, to me.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 19, 2018 at 12:13pm

I just think the probability of a couple of guys meeting someone for a business meeting not having two bucks or plastic is pretty infinitesimal. My guess is that they were pissed to be asked. I also have no idea how they were asked. 

Comment by Anna Herrington on April 19, 2018 at 12:21pm

I'm about to head out right now but had to laugh reading that last comment, kosh, as I'm actually meeting a potential work colleague... at a coffee shop... (ha!) and I was just wondering what to do if I had to buy something. I don't do cards. You live in a completely other world than I do if not having any cash or means for a tea on a tight budget week is a crazy thought.

Enjoyed all the varying thoughts on this thread.... I like other peoples views. enlightening.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 19, 2018 at 12:36pm

Not so crazy but if I were meeting someone on business I’d have two bucks

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 19, 2018 at 1:23pm

Only a white person would say that, especially at a place like Starbucks. Again, that 12 million is not just well spent; it is so very very obviously necessary! They have to teach them the most basic things, like, just because a Black Man has a beard doesn't mean he's on parole. What a sick legacy Slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow have left the USA and way too many of its residents.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on April 19, 2018 at 1:40pm

eeeeerrrrrmmmmm...  I just read something VERY disturbing about Starbucks racial bias training.

It seem one of the groups who will be taking part in these workshops is none other than the notoriously anti-arab, islamophobic, "Israel Right or Wrong" group Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  

For those that might not know, the ADL is a Jewish organization that has gone WAAAAAY out of its way to slam such diverse groups/people as #BlackLivesMatter and the leaders of the Woman's March.  

As one of the WM leaders called the ADL, "An anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian organization that peddles islamophobia and attacks America’s prominent Muslim orgs and activists..."

Including ADL as part of the workshops is "tone deaf", at best.  You might as well ask the KKK to give a few seminars too, if having the ADL being there is okay.

P.S.  It bears mentioning that it isn't JUST members of WM or BLM that are calling for the ADL to be dropped.  The Jewish Voice for Peace has expressed "deep concerns about the ADL participating in the Starbucks racial bias training", as well.

Jewish Voice for Peace

"Jewish Voice for Peace has deep concerns about the ADL participating in the Starbucks racial bias training.

The ADL has a long history of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian advocacy and at a minimum has shown profound insensitivity toward Black communities.

The ADL’s aggressive support of Israel often comes at the cost of the human and civil rights of Palestinians. The organizations that train Starbucks should care equally for the rights and safety of all of Starbucks customers."

Comment by koshersalaami on April 19, 2018 at 2:00pm

The Philadelphia chief of police has now apologized because he says he was unaware that Starbucks often allows people to sit there without buying anything. 

ADL has a problem with the BLM organization because they decided to tack getting involved in Palestinian/Israeli politics onto their domestic mission. ADL did not start out getting involved in BLM’s turf but the other way around.


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