The Crime of Sitting While Black

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and Founder Howard Shultz
K Gerard Thomas

The recent arrest of two African American men for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks waiting for a business partner was a video that went viral on social media and was picked up by the mainstream press, which of course led to protest and a call to boycott Starbucks.


Both men Rashon Nelson and his childhood friend Donte Robinson entered the store and Rashon asked the store manager if he could use the restroom, she said that the bathroom was for paying customers only, so he sat down with Donte to wait for their business partner to arrive to discuss a real estate deal.


Anyone who has ever gone to a Starbucks will find a host of people using the Wi-Fi for their laptop or another electronic device and not all customers have a cup of Joe, it is a comfortable place to meet people that do not require an expensive meal, just talk, plan and leave... but these two law-abiding citizens were not afforded that opportunity. 


Just under two minutes the nervous Starbucks manager took it upon herself to check on them by asking is there anything they needed? the two gentlemen said no, she then asked them to leave if they were not going to make a purchase, then she Immediately called 911.


The Philadelphia police arrived at the same time as Rashon and Donte’s white business partner who questioned the officers for handcuffing Rashon and Donte, the police was not going to let common sense get in the way of another black man being arrested... god forbid.   


Both men were arrested for trespassing, in the video, other patrons came to their defense explaining to the six arresting officers that other people sat for hours without ordering anything you could hear one of the witnesses ask “Is this because they are black”? 


I’m surprised the press and or the social injustice cable news commentators seem to have forgotten that Starbucks is no stranger to controversy when it comes to social issues, in 2015 Starbucks created the Starbucks Race Together campaign after the increase of unarmed black men being shot and which led to protest all across the nation.


The Starbucks Race Together InitiativeCEO Schultz launched the campaign because he said he was concerned about racial tension, feared the United States may be approaching a tipping point and thought Starbucks could serve as a platform for positive change. ‘If we keep going about our business and ringing the Starbucks register every day, then I think we’re in a sense a part of the problem,’ said Schultz.”


The CEO of Starbucks came under attack for launching the campaign on race relations he encouraged his managers or Barista to discuss race and even write the campaign slogan “Race Together” on the cups of the customers. 


Starbucks was vehemently attacked by Donald Trump and Fox News because of the color of their Holiday cups and the fact that they put “Happy Holidays” on their cups instead of “Merry Christmas,” yes this Sh*# does not make its self-up.  There was a Fox led movement to boycott over a coffee cup.


Overt racism or bias is a public relations nightmare, and it would take “Scandals” Olivia Pope to fix the issue, the current CEO Kevin Johnson has made a public apology to the nation and also to both of the men who were arrested.


He has called for 8000 Starbucks stores to close during the afternoon of May 29 and all 175,000 employees will undergo racial bias training, a program developed by progressive equality organizations will participate as well as the professors who teach the difference between overt racism and implicit bias.


In 2018 we are still faced with giving our African American Children the Talk any African American mother or father who gives a damn about their children will give them the Warning Talk.


“When you go outside be careful what you do, don’t bring any negative attention to yourself, they are watching you all the time if any of your white friends pull a prank you better not you may get shot. If you are traveling with your white friends and your car breaks down you let them ask for help. 


If you are stopped by the police you answer their questions you address them as sir, never make any moves keep your hands where they can see them, don’t scratch if you have an itch, don’t wipe the sweat from your brow. Never argue with the police.


 If you go to Starbucks, you can’t do what the other folks do, don’t sit down and talk, you may get arrested within minutes just for sitting, welcome to 1960 Woolworth lunch counter maybe this is what making America great again means?       



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