Racial tensions are as high as I’ve ever seen them. It’s a familiar pattern: an alleged racial incident, followed by mass hysteria and protests. This time, the alleged incident took place in a Starbucks, which is pretty much the last place I would expect a racial incident to occur. I think it is foolish to rush to judgment.
The version of events put out by the media goes something like this: last week, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia . It all started when they asked to use the restroom. An employee told them the restroom was for customers only. Because they were waiting for a friend, they declined to buy anything. A few minutes later the police arrived and hauled them off. Later in the day the store filled with protesters. They were angry, and rightfully so. I would be angry too if the initial version of events put out by the media was correct.
But the Philadelphia police chief, who is black, described the incident much differently. According to him, the officers responded to a caller who said two patrons were refusing to buy anything, and also refusing to leave when asked. The officers again asked them to leave, and they refused. They were then arrested.
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All too often, the public jumps to conclusions without bothering to hear both sides. Whatever the facts may be, the court of public opinion usually starts out with the assumption that a racial injustice has occurred. This is wrong.
It can be said that Starbucks ought to enforce their no-loitering rule equally if they are going to enforce it at all. I agree, but in this case, the two complainants called attention to themselves by asking to use the restroom. Employees don’t have time to guard their stores like hawks making sure everyone who walks in buys something. That being said, they are well within their rights to ask anyone to either buy something or leave, especially if that person approaches them first.
At the end of the day, those two customers could have just bought a coffee. That would have diffused the whole situation.
Regarding “Supreme court seems headed toward upholding Trump travel ban” (Apr. 26): While the Supreme Court considers President Trump’s Muslim ban, anti-Muslim and racist policies operate in many ways in our society. Raleigh Muslim resident, Zohra Oumous, was prevented a visit to her son incarcerated at Maury Correctional Institution in eastern North Carolina because a male guard asked her to take off her hijab in public.
Laws and policies against Muslims are an extension of anti-black racism that inflicts human rights abuses and violence against black, brown, and Muslim community members. US-led wars and occupations increasingly target black, brown, and Muslim populations, and people displaced from their home countries are further barred from entering the United States.
People throughout the country protested the first version of Muslim ban in January 2017. It is essential that we join the anti-racism movement to dismantle Islamophobia and racism. Project South and allies will organize an anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and immigrant rights assembly on May 6 in Raleigh to build such a movement with our grassroots partners. Join us to in this movement.
Regional Organizer, Project South
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