Just over a month ago, a couple of African-American guys went to Starbucks to meet a friend of theirs. They hadn't ordered anything but asked to get the key for the restroom door. They were told that the restrooms were only for paying customers, so if they wanted to use the restroom, they would have to order something. When they refused, they were asked to leave. And when they refused to do that,
the police were called, and the men were arrested.
And chaos ensued.
It's amazing how one incident at a coffee shop in Philadelphia has garnered nation-wide media coverage for multiple weeks.
For context, the population of the United States is just over 326 million people. Starbucks has over 27,000 locations worldwide; as of 2017, there were just over 8,200 in the United States.
And because two guys were denied access to a restroom at one Starbucks location, the entire chain has been condemned for racial bias. There have been protests and social media outrage. The national media has brought constant updates for several weeks. The corporation's CEO has publicly apologized. Starbucks just closed its 8,200+ stores in fact to put its employees through "racial bias training."
This incident directly affected approximately 0.000000614% of the US population. We have evidence of this occurring at 0.012% of Starbucks locations in the United States. Yet, Starbucks closed down every store in America today to put its employees through "anti-bias training."
Is there something here that I'm missing?
How does one incident at one restaurant warrant this level of national outrage? How is it considered rational for the actions of one store manager - even if the action was taken due to racism - to justify shutting down over 8,000 stores and sending tens of thousands of employees to reeducation camps for a day? What sort of dimensional portal have we traveled through to end up in a world where an entire multinational corporation is to be punished over the actions of a single employee - actions which, according to company policy, were completely justifiable?
Maybe it's just my supposed 'white privilege' that prevents me from understanding what this is all about...but then, the last time I entered a Starbucks just to use the restroom, I bought something. I didn't do it because of any policy. I wasn't told to by an employee. It's just the polite thing to do. After all, I'd gone to the Starbucks because I was pretty sure its restrooms would be cleaner than those at the truck stop just down the street. That may not be the case moving forward, as Starbucks has changed its policy to allow anyone who walks into one of their stores to use the restrooms, whether they're a customer or not.
Early in May, a news story went viral when three African-Americans threatened to sue
the police department in Rialto, California, after officers confronted them as they were leaving the house they had rented through AirBnB. The police were responding to a call reporting a possible burglary. But when the police department released body cam footage, it revealed a much different story: the police had responded to a call, everyone had behaved professionally, and once everything was cleared up, the people were sent on their way. If anything, rather than racial bias, it served as evidence as to why people should interact a bit more with their neighbors, and let them know when someone might be renting their house for a few days.
We've seen this over and over again: someone claims racism, then video footage comes out disproving the claim. It happened recently with a NAACP leader in Timmonsville, SC
. It happened with a city councilman in Texas
. It happened recently with a woman in Virginia
We seem to have a similar case with the incident at the Starbucks in Philadelphia. Someone in the store videotaped the two men being arrested and posted it to social media, causing the story to go viral, but there's been no video released of what came before that. Were the two men being assholes, belligerently claiming entitlement to use the restrooms because they had physically occupied space in the store, and intended to buy something later? We don't know. That
footage hasn't been released. All we really have to go by is the word of the woman who posted her video of the arrest to social media (who turned out to be somewhat of a left-wing activist), and the fact that the manager who called the police was moved to another Starbucks location, rather than being fired (though shortly thereafter she voluntarily left the company).
The answer to these kinds of racial controversies is abundantly clear. Sending employees to the reeducation camps until they love Big Brother may or may not solve anything - after all, an organization like Starbucks is going to have a lot of turnover...so are all new employees going to start their new jobs at anti-bias training?
If we truly want to fight racial injustice, Starbucks should immediately equip all of its employees with body cameras, just like the police. In fact, we are fast nearing a point where it would behoove all Americans to wear body cameras every day. That way, if a police officer does something racist, you have a full video record of it. If you get falsely accused of racism, you have video that will either exonerate or condemn you. If you're on the Duke Lacrosse team, you can clear up those rape accusations pretty quickly with a full video account backing you up.
We need truth.
We need justice.
Body cameras for all.