By now, you have either seen or heard what went down at a local Starbucks in Philadelphia. Some were shocked. Others were not. The idea that you can get arrested in the birth city of our nation simply for just, well, being there—or more to the point, being a Black male in the company of, and waiting for, another Black male for the purpose of putting money in said establishment’s pockets—in 21st century America, should make everyone with any [modicum] of sense and decency, pardon my French, pissed the **** off.
What was worse was the knee jerk response.
“Well, they must have been up to something.”
“They should’ve just left.”
“They were asked to leave.”
“Well, you can’t loiter.”
I hit up a Starbucks two, sometimes four times a week—or at least I used to. The Union Square and West 8th Street ones are my favorites because they are open late and super train-accessible. I’ve seen people of all colors and ages, come in and camp out without as much as buying a bag of popcorn. I’ve seen people of all colors and ages, come in, use the bathroom and leave.
You don’t establish Starbucks music, offer free Wi-Fi, have a location on every other block in every major city, and keep late hours because you want people to zip in and out. You are encouraging people to stick around for awhile.
I’m not shocked at the police response to all of this. It’s been clearly established through words and action that police’s primary objective is to protect and serve each other. So I took their response as the sky being blue and water being wet. The remarks made by Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, while well intended, came across more as an attempt to save the company PR image—which is pretty shot to hell at this point—rather than take a higher moral ground. When Johnson said, “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested,” it put me into ‘Hulk smash mode’: WHY ELSE DO YOU CALL THE POLICE! Sigh…
All of this said memory triggers I try not to dwell on too long. I remember when my brother and I would get followed around by store employees when we went clothes shopping for school. My brother told me something that I still apply and will paraphrase:
Do not put money in the pockets of those who can’t respect all of me.
That said, I’m done with Starbucks.
I cannot, in good faith, subsidize a company that did something so cruel and callous and then limps along in trying to “make it right.” I will find another spot to have my green tea and buttered bagel. I will readjust my schedule so I can get my writing/web surfing/email I need to get my groove on. The quiet room at the 42nd Street Library has been mighty good to me. The divorce is final and that’s my new lady now.
Black and brown folks have power. Economic power. It’s time we start using it to support and create our own businesses and build up our own communities. That time is now—especially when we are at a point in history (again) where our so-called leaders have essentially told us we are on our own anyway.
The choice is ours.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the blog “Earl Douglas Photography” and was re-shared with permission.