Thursday, May 3 Update: Since their baseless arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson met with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson at his request so that he could make an in-person apology. Yesterday, the Associated Press reports, “the pair settled with the city ‘for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.’” The program will benefit Philadelphia high school students. The men and their lawyer told the AP “the settlement was an effort to make sure something positive came out of the incident.” To hopefully further that effort, as has been previously reported, 8,000 nationwide Starbucks will be closed on the afternoon of May 29 so that staff can undergo training to help prevent racial bias.
Monday, April 16: In a story that’s becoming way too fucking familiar in 2018, another racial incident happened in which black people were harassed just for being in a restaurant (some previous incidents already this year happened at Applebee’s and IHOP). On Thursday, two black men were arrested on Thursday for basically sitting in a Starbucks. Fortune reports that “the official reason was trespassing because they hadn’t ordered anything. But an eyewitness… said the men had been sitting quietly and playing with their phones. It was later reported that the two men were real estate developers waiting to meet an investor.” The Root notes that Starbucks “is once again feeling the social-media flames and even calls for a boycott over an incident at a Philly Starbucks where two black men were racially profiled, harassed and arrested because a snotty barista wanted to flex her treacherous white privilege on them. The police, of course, readily complied.”
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson released a statement, saying that he wanted to meet with the two men. He also states, “The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” So we have to wonder why the manager called the police on two men who—by all accounts—were sitting there passively? The Root reports that “a spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the men were ultimately released due to ‘lack of evidence’ that a crime had been committed. (No shit, Sherlock.)”
This morning, crowds are protesting at the Philadelphia Starbucks where the incident occurred, calling for the firing and/or arrest of the manager who called the police. The AP and other outlets report that the protestors are chanting, “Starbucks coffee is anti-black”; USA Today notes that “Starbucks regional vice president Camille Hymes attempted to talk to the protesters, but was shouted down.” The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks is trending on Twitter. About an hour before this posting, The Philadelphia Inquirer announced that the “The manager who called police to the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Thursday has left the company in what a company spokeswoman called a ‘mutual’ decision.”
Meanwhile, Johnson is making the rounds on morning media outlets; on ABC’s Good Morning America, he “reiterated that the arrests were ‘reprehensible’ and said he hoped to meet with the men to discuss ‘a constructive solution.’” The two men haven’t responded yet, and why should they? The only solution is to stop racial profiling in the first place.
[Note: The Root, like The Takeout, is owned by Univision Communications.]