"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

We shall over caffeinate....(sorry!)

We're gonna need a bigger cup....

If you remember back to when Louis Black was a regular guest on "The Daily Show," you might remember his story about the two Starbucks on opposite corners of a street in Houston.

Yes; directly across the street from each other.

Needless to say, that's in an upscale part of town.  Where I live, Interstate 10 is the dividing line between the very wealthy part of town (another one, far from the dual and dueling Starbucks) of wealthy lawyers and wealthy oil executives, and the "poor" part of town, where apartment complexes predominate and are not filled with the wealthy retirees who live across the street from the upscale shopping mall less than a mile from my house (but across the freeway, that dividing line).

Excluding the mall, there are within a few miles of each other at least 3 Starbucks that I can think of.  Since everyone drives in Houston, you can drive down one side of the freeway and reach all three (again, without going in the mall and walking to that one in the heart of the building) in about 15 minutes without much traffic.  Notice I said "one side of the freeway."  There are no Starbucks on my side of the freeway.  Well, I correct myself; there is one, much further down the freeway toward town, in a much more affluent area.  An area almost as affluent as that on the south side of the freeway (I live on the north side).

So is it any surprise all 8000 employee owned Starbucks need to close for a day of training of matters of race?  But this isn't a Starbucks problem.  You can't blame them for opening stores where the customers are, and the customers for their coffee are the well-heeled.  Of course these incidents are occurring in neighborhoods where most of the residents and clientele are white.  That's almost to be expected, as are the incidents of outright racism.  It's just surprising it took this long.

Starbucks will bear the brunt for this, but Starbucks didn't create, or even encourage, this problem.  I seriously doubt there's a national policy from Starbucks about who can use the restrooms (some have controls on the doors, some don't) and especially about the skin color of who can use them.  No, this isn't Starbucks' problem, though they will bear the brunt of the anger:  this is America's problem.

We're a post-racial society after Obama, right?  Or we turned back into a racist society because of Trump?  Nope; both wrong.  Nothing has really changed.  I actually heard the Philadelphia police department explain that Starbucks is not a "public" facility like a library or a school, so the police had to enforce a charge of trespass.  It was rather as if the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Supreme Court decisions finding it constitutional (Con Law was a LONG time ago, but I remember some things) had never happened.  In matters of race especially, if you are open to the public, you are open to the public.  You can't suddenly claim it's a private facility and have the black people making you nervous at the lunch counter thrown in jail.  The Philadelphia police really have no excuse in this matter; they had no obligation to make an arrest, except the complainant was a white representative of a business, and the people arrested were black.  I had a drunk driver careen off the road into my house a few years ago.  When the police finally arrived, the first thing the officer told me was that he couldn't make an arrest (I really didn't expect him to, I wanted a police report for the insurance).  Even if I had insisted, he wouldn't have arrested the driver (who was Hispanic, if that helps in the comparative analysis).  The police in Philly didn't have to arrest the customers, and in fact should have refused to; but they were black, and white people felt threatened, so....

Starbucks will work to remove this smear from their reputation, but the problem here is us, not a company.  It's a mark on us more than on the Starbucks logo.  We are still learning the lessons of the civil rights movement, lessons first taught more than 50 years ago; what were the ages of those officers, I wonder, or the one on the radio this morning, trying to explain "public" v. "public/private" spaces?  We have to learn these lessons over again in every generation, until we finally don't need to learn them at all.

That day, sadly, is many generations away.


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