So now, at least in Philadelphia, PA, you can’t be black and wait for someone at Starbucks.
I wait for people at Starbucks all time and have never been asked to leave. Starbucks cultivates an atmosphere where you can sit, chill, work and drink coffee while soaking up all the free Wi-Fi.
On April 12, 2018, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson where waiting at a Philadelphia Starbucks (18th & Spruce Street location) for a meeting to discuss real estate opportunities.
This Starbucks was managed by one named Holly Hylton. The young men told the barista at the counter they were waiting for a third member of their party to arrive so they could order. Two minutes after they arrive, the police were called by Ms. Hylton. The police arrived just as the third member of their meeting showed up! According to the management, there was a robbery of a nearby Starbucks in recent days, and company policy dictates management is at its own discretion with loitering situations.
Surveillance shows they arrived at 4:35 pm EST, and there was a call to 911 at 4:37 pm. It is suggested that Ms. Hylton called 911. The employee is recorded to have said the following:
“I have two gentlemen in my café that are refusing to make a purchase or leave. I am at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce.”
Now, the driving force behind this call is Holly Hylton’s white fragility. Allow me to translate what she is saying in real time:
“There are black people here that are making me uncomfortable. All the blacks that come in here get their drinks and leave. Why are they not doing that? I am scared because I know black people steal and accost good white people. I am calling the police to move them from this space because my whiteness and white privilege demand that I remain in control. These negroes are not available to be controlled, so come get them because I feel threatened!”
There are protests planned still for Starbucks, personal and corporate, with there being a boycott immediately after this incident at this location; through economic pressure and inconveniencing the unwoke coffee drinking white vox populi of the 18th and Spruce Street location was motivation to have Hylton ‘leave’ the company. I’m sure she was probably fired.
It was through the bloodhoundness of social media that her name and information was posted. I’m sure she’s cowering in a corner with her one black friend telling them how much of a racist she is not.
For further proper context, this is not the first time being black in a white-dominant area has caused alarm, discomfort or had the police called. In the viral video of the incident, you even see the white people witnessing this were outraged, and wondering why stuff like this never happened to them, adding why this was even happening? The same reason why it happened in the late 1950’s and early days of the Civil Rights Movement. It happened because whenever the establishment is challenged to be fair, it is always made uncomfortable. When the establishment is uncomfortable, it uses violence, or better yet — law enforcement sanctioned violence to maintain social control.
It happened at Woolworths’ lunch counters. It happened at all-white diners. It happened when little black children wanted to swim in public pools. It happened when little black children went to libraries to read. It happened when black people pushed to vote. It happened at Selma. It happened in Tulsa. It happened in East St. Louis. For the want of equality, for the want of representation of that equality, for the accessibility of that same equality, social control must be exerted when there are white people whom were and are offended.
I am glad the video went viral. I am glad there is lasting proof these things happen to people of color, black people for merely existing and only trying to live! I am glad there are archives which show how for the want of the same food or drink at the same price, people were assaulted in public, while the whole staff watched, with the whole police called, with the whole nation seeing it in real time. I am glad there are those brave enough to turn on cameras on these expensive devices to see with unflinching eye what happens to people of color, black people in spaces where they may be outnumbered by non-people of color. There is another level of honor and distinction which belongs to the first generation rebel citizen journalists, recording these incidences of blatant racism and injustice. It is from that bravery, the Civil Rights Movement gained more traction.
However, notice one crucial thing. From the boycotts and sit-ins of fifty-some years ago, up to this very moment, we understand and see that it is financial losses which compel companies and policies to change (most notable — The Montgomery Bus Company; the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted a year). On May 29, 2018, Starbucks is briefly closing all its stores to deal with its staff on the issue of racial bias. It is estimated they will lose about 17 million dollars in revenue.
Whether you choose to boycott Starbucks, or occupy space, or meet up with a date, this issue is deeper than your Trenta iced coffee! It is deeper than you being inconvenienced because Starbucks will be closed for an afternoon. It is bigger than your addiction to your morning java! And if you cannot see beyond this…you are part of the problem.
[Image via Philadelphia PD]