Starbucks incident only scratching the surface

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Numerous national incidents of overt racism and discrimination are being played out daily in the media. It appears you still have some people calling it excessive sensitivity and paranoia on the part of the victims, especially if they are Black. Believe what you must, but acts of blatant racism don’t seem to be decreasing. Some even liken it to a national epidemic that needs to be treated.

The latest incident took place at a Starbucks when police were called to remove two African American men from the store. The men alleged that they asked to use the restroom and afterwards sat down awaiting the arrival of an associate without buying anything. For whatever reason the supervision felt compelled to call the police when the two men refused to leave. In many venues, people meet to conduct business—not necessarily to buy anything. It appears the gravest mistake these two men made was being lack. When Whites hang out in places and don’t usually buying anything, it is not deemed a crime.

From the news coverage shown, these men didn’t appear to be gangsters or to be inappropriately dressed or threatening. There is no evidence they berated the supervisor or customers in attendance with vulgarities and profanities. I would like to believe this was a personal decision by an ignorant and insensitive individual and not a practice or policy condoned and surreptitiously promoted by this particular company. However, this treatment is indicative of what many African Americans can identify with being Black in America.

I can only wonder how many White people this store manager has asked to leave Starbucks—probably none. But you have some Whites who don’t understand or care why people of color are inflamed and riled when this type of blatant racism or insensitivity takes place against a person of color. And let’s make no mistake, it is racism when it is only inflicted upon people of color by those who have the authority to negatively affect the outcome of those outside their race. Generally, Blacks as a whole are not in an economic or controlling position to exercise racism against anyone.

White America must understand this feeling of exclusion, discrimination, and degradation is real and experienced prevalently among the majority of people of color. Accept it or not, it is often the painful reality of people of color trying to exist in an environment that is the aftermath created or influenced by their White oppressors.

Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable and embarrassing, but not talking about it won’t make it go away. It would be in the best interests of this country to take this impending sense or apprehension of inferior treatment felt by people of color seriously. Racism is deeply ingrained in our society, subtly exercised and practiced by all our major institutions and bureaucracies.

If you truly studied or followed American history, it would be apparent that the dominant population as a whole, has always advocated in their own self serving interests, doing whatever was necessary to keep people of color in an inferior or subservient capacity. This practice continues with their dominance in the social, political, and economic arenas. People of color are not making noise or demanding change without warrant. It seems as if it is an unwarranted rite of passage for people of color, especially African Americans, to experience the vestiges of racisms—especially in stores or public venues where they experience being disproportionately watched or followed when compared to their White counterparts.

People of color understand that their White counterparts are given opportunities and inherently given entitlements and privileges, which they seem to generally take for granted. Therefore, you have many Whites who are unaware or who are just adamantly insensitive to the pain, hurt or suffering of people of color.

This is apparent when you have Whites dismissing the cry for justice and equality by non-White Americans when African American athletes refuse to stand for the National Anthem. It is not that these athletes are disrespecting the flag, but rather they are literally crying out for America to stop being hypocritical and make amends to right the wrongs against people of color. These athletes (like all Americans) have loved ones, i.e., fathers, grandfathers, uncles and relatives that have died and fought for this country.

Why is it so hard for White America to understand that it is not about disrespecting the flag, but about trying to make America recognize and make a valiant attempt to eradicate the injustices experienced by their dark skinned brothers and sisters? Anything to the contrary is only a smokescreen or diversion to keep from dealing with the crippling cancer permeating in this country. Let’s recognize the pain of the truth, so we can honestly go forward in the best interests of all the citizens of this country. People of colors’ feelings count, and they too should be treated with dignity and respect.