Great moments in racism

It happens all the time. You agree to meet with someone at a coffee shop but for some reason you arrive early or the other person is late. You think it would be rude to order before the other person arrives because that might look like a rebuke for lateness so you wait, perhaps for some time. While waiting, you may use the bathroom. Then the person arrives and life goes on. One thing that you probably don’t worry about is that the police are going to be called by the store manager and have you arrested for not ordering something.

Unless you are a young black man, of course. Then you run the risk of arrest for any damn thing, as was experienced by two such men at a Starbucks restaurant in Philadelphia, whom the police arrested while they were calmly seated waiting for a third person to arrive.

In the clip, the two men can be seen being escorted from a table at the cafe in handcuffs while a white man, who has been identified as Philadelphia real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, asks why officers were called and attempts to explain to police that the two men were waiting for him.

“What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here, meeting me?” Yaffe asks in the video. “What did they do?”

The video shows the men being quiet and calm but yet arrested and walked out. Thanks to the video, the police cannot make the usual claim that the men were disorderly or creating a disturbance, as the police chief initially claimed.

Commissioner Ross said in a video posted to Facebook on Saturday afternoon that police responded around 4:40 p.m. Thursday to a 911 call reporting a disturbance. The men had refused to leave the cafe after asking to use the restroom without placing an order, which violated Starbucks policy, staff members told police.

The men were detained after they refused officers’ requests to leave as well, Ross said.

“The police did not just happen upon this event — they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee,” he said. “They were called there, for a service, and that service had to do with quelling a disturbance, a disturbance that had to do with trespassing. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong.”

DePino said in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News that she posted the video, which was recorded by a woman sitting next to her at the coffee shop, immediately after the men’s arrest, which she said involved about eight officers.

“They did not raise their voices; they were not confrontational,” DePino said of the men. Police “put them in handcuffs and essentially perp-walked them out of the store.”

This follows the release of another video at a New Jersey fitness center when the police were called to remove two men, even though they were long-standing members of the club. At least in that case, the police seemed to be puzzled as to why they were called at all.

In both cases, the managers and other employees involved were fired.

But what puzzles me is that in these days of ubiquitous cameras, the employees knew or must have known that they were being filmed. The fact that they went ahead with their actions suggests to me that they felt they were completely in the right to do what they did. I can only put that down to the fact that racism in the US is so deeply embedded that people think it is normal to believe that young black men are pondering criminal actions until proven otherwise, and that preemptively calling the police on them even if they did not do anything wrong is perfectly acceptable.


  1. jrkrideau says

    That is rather mind-bogging. If I were a young black male in the USA, I think I’d be heading for the Canadian border and considering a refugee claim.

    We have a lot of racist fools here, but I don’t believe we are generally that bad.

  2. says

    My girlfriend is black. In the last 2 years I have learned incredible things. For one thing, I’ve realized that black people have an entirely different set of expectations in every social interaction than I do. If I go to order a coffee at the ${coffeeplace} I expect a coffee. If she does, she may be ignored for a while or sneered at. I can ask a cop for help and not worry about beinjg shot. She can’t. I can sit in a mall and not be told to “move along” etc. I live in a different American than she does.

  3. blf says

    Black men arrested at Philadelphia Starbucks feared for their lives:

    [Donte] Robinson said he thought about his loved ones and how the afternoon had taken such a turn as he was taken to jail. [Rashon] Nelson wondered if he would make it home alive.

    “Anytime I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind,” Nelson said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”


    The men have met with the CEO of Starbucks and are pushing for meaningful change so what happened to them does not happen to anyone else.


    Nelson and Robinson, black men who became best friends in the fourth grade, were taken in handcuffs from the Starbucks in Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, where Robinson has been a customer since he was 15.

    Both gentlemen are apparently 23-years old, so it seems reasonable the staff at that particular shop would have recognised at least Mr Robinson.

    Nelson and Robinson originally were supposed to meet Andrew Yaffe, a white local businessman, at a Starbucks across town. But the plan changed, and they agreed to meet at the Rittenhouse Square location, where they had met several times before on a potential real estate opportunity.

    Again, the staff would have had a chance to become somewhat familiar with both individuals.

    Yaffe showed up as the men were being handcuffed. He can be seen in the video demanding an explanation for the officers’ actions. Nelson and Robinson did not resist arrest, confused and unsure of what to think or what might happen next.

    “When you know that you did nothing wrong, how do you really react to it?” Nelson said. “You can either be ignorant or you can show some type of sophistication and act like you have class. That was the choice we had.”

    [… Starbucks’ CEO Kevin] Johnson has responded quickly to public outcry around the arrests, calling them “reprehensible”, apologizing and ordering stores closed for mandatory training to tackle unconscious bias.

    Nelson and Robinson said they are looking for more lasting results and are in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes, including the posting in stores of a customer bill of rights; the adoption of new policies regarding customer ejections, racial profiling and racial discrimination; and independent investigations of complaints of profiling or discrimination from customers and employees.


    Asked what the men thought about criticism that they had violated the store’s rules, [Robinson] said: “Rules are rules, what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong.”

    The upcoming one-day closure, whilst perhaps helpful, is clearly not, itself, any sort of continuing / continuous preventive action. Messrs Nelson and Robinson proposed “more lasting results” (see first excerpt) are continuing / continuous preventive action.

    Also, the upcoming training’s apparent focus on “unconscious bias” is incomplete, Why Starbucks shouldn’t be praised for its misguided racism workshops:

    Implicit bias, a term drawn from psychology, has become a new buzzword in the media that refers to the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes held by individuals around certain groups of people. Often people can act on implicit bias in prejudicial and discriminatory ways without even realizing it, such as assuming a black man is less qualified for a job than a white man, despite having similar résumés and skill sets.

    While the line between implicit bias and explicit bias can become murky at times, the Starbucks incident is a clear case of explicit bias and to call it anything less is outrageous. To consciously pick up the phone to call the police on two black men sitting at a table doing nothing is an explicit act.

    […] Implicit bias workshops have become nothing more than a neoliberal PR stunt for both corporations attempting to avoid legal liability, and race organizations seeking to be solutions and funding-oriented. It’s an easy out when genuine solutions to racial violence are much more complex, time-consuming and expensive.

    In the Starbucks case, consider that Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), has been brought on as one of the “experts” to develop the implicit bias workshop curriculum. The ADL is a staunch supporter of Israel and advocates against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which calls for an end to Palestinian occupation. How ironic is it that ADL is involved in a racial bias workshop while supporting Israel’s policing and oppression of Palestinian people?

    Additionally, the ADL has sponsored exchange programs that allow Israel’s military to provide training to US law enforcement officers. During a time when Black Lives Matter is galvanizing against the militarization of police and an end to police brutality against black and brown bodies, this is a grave oversight. These are the politically charged structural-level issues implicit bias work is deflecting from. [&helip;]

    For example, the policegoons lying about how the two gentlemen reacted (admittedly not in Starbucks direct ability to remedy). That lying is also quite overt (explicit): “They are African-Americans, hence they must have attacked our heroic officers!”

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Men Arrested At Philadelphia Starbucks Speak Out; Police Commissioner Apologizes

    Also Thursday, the Philadelphia police commissioner changed course, joining Starbucks in taking at least partial responsibility for what happened.
    Richard Ross struck a conciliatory note at a news conference, saying, “I fully acknowledge that I played a significant role in making [the incident] worse.”
    Last weekend, Ross had said in a video statement that “these officers did absolutely nothing wrong” and that they were legally obligated to respond to Starbucks’ report that the men were trespassing. But on Thursday, he said, “I should have said the officers acted within the scope of the law, and not that they didn’t do anything wrong.” …

  5. says

    jrkrideau, that’s an image of Canada I’m no longer willing to hold. Don’t forget, we’ve given the world Gavin McInnes and thus his Proud Boys, Rebel Media, Lauren Southern and much more. We’ve had the Saskatoon police killing First Nations people with “starlight tours”. Black Lives Matters has a very real presence in Toronto for very good reason.

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