OPINION: Really, Starbucks?

By: Jaz Rice
OwlFeed Journalist

On April 12, two African-American men by the names of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were accused of trespassing inside of their local Philadelphia Starbucks.

The manager told the men that if they did not buy anything that they could not sit inside of the Starbucks and that they had to leave. The men replied and said that they were waiting for an acquaintance and sat down. After that the manager called the police.

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Photos courtesy of the Washington Post

The two men were arrested by police shortly after the phone call was made as other Starbucks goers sat around and watched, and some even filmed. After the video that was taken was posted onto social media platforms many people got wind of the situation and were outraged. Many people stood out front of the building with signs and protested chanting things like “Starbucks is anti-black”, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap,” “Anti-blackness anywhere is anti-blackness everywhere,” while others were inside with bullhorns.

As the protests intensified, no charges were brought up on the two men. Minister Rodney, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, said: “We cannot find a reason for them being approached except for their skin.”

Some protestors had the same outlook, exclaiming on their Facebook page that “Philadelphia police have once again demonstrated their inherent white supremacy and inability to serve the black community.” Many protesters demand that the manager be fired as well as the arresting officers.

I agree that the manager should be fired but I disagree that the arresting officers should be fired because they were only responding to the call and trying to keep the peace. In summation, the manager of that particular facility was sent to another facility and the CEO of Starbucks issued several apologies and even met face to face with the men to express his concern.

Following the incident, all existing and future Starbucks employees in every location will have to take “Unconscious Bias” training, and as for the men, they decided not to sue the city but agreed to a symbolic $1 each as well as a $200,000 grant program for high school students aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement: “This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city, pain that would have resurfaced over and over again in protracted litigation, which presents significant legal risks and high financial and emotional costs for everyone involved.”

He adds that Nelson and Robinson approached the city as partners “to make something positive come of this.”

I personally love the way that these two men handled the situation. They did not use this as a “get rich quick” scheme but rather made it about the community.