Category Archives: Race

Let’s Grab a Cup of Coffee

This is a post on race.  As such, it’s important that I acknowledge that as a white man, I have it easier in America than had I been born black.  That’s just a fact.

Okay, now,  Starbucks is in trouble.  On Thursday, April 12th, two men were arrested for not leaving a Starbucks store after the manager told them, that they could not stay without ordering something:

Ross [Police Commissioner] explained police received a 911 call around 4:40 p.m. on Thursday from Starbucks employees saying that “two males were trespassing” and “refused to leave.” According to Ross, the two men did not order food and had asked to use the bathroom, but Starbucks policy does “not allow non paying people from the public to come in and use the restroom.”

Ross claimed the officers asked the men to leave when they got to the scene, but refused to. The men were let go after “Starbucks was no longer interested in prosecuting.”

When I first heard about this I was surprised that a Starbucks would call the police for someone not ordering coffee in order to use the restroom.  Partly because I can often stand in a Starbucks for EVER without being served, but that’s another story.  Digging into the story a little longer I learned that the men didn’t just wanna use the bathroom, they sat at a table waiting for a friend.

Now it became a little more clear as to what happened.

Three guys planned a business meeting and two of them arrived early.  They were waiting for their friend to arrive so that they could discuss whatever was on the agenda.

No big deal.

All the time I meet friends for lunch or dinner and we arrive at different times.  If I’m first, I tell the host that I am a party of 4 lets say, and will be waiting for the remaining three.  I get sat, brought menus and I wait.  This happens all the time.

Normal everyday stuff.

Now, another thing that happens all the time, is that I or someone in the family, need to use a restroom while traveling.  An away baseball game, a trip to the beach, maybe driving to camp – whatever.  Someone needs to go potty.

When ever this eventuality happens, and I stop at a gas station, a McDonalds or where ever, I always buy something.  Always.  Maybe just a Coke or a bottle of water.  I have, on occasion, bought something I didn’t need or want at the time, because using someone else’s bathroom is free for someone else.

Back to the restaurant and lunch with buddies.  So I’m early and get sat waiting for my friends.  The waiter isn’t gonna give me jazz about not ordering lunch because my meal would arrive before everybody else’s and that’s silly.  He may ask me if I would like something to drink – maybe I want a Coke, or a beer, or maybe, if it’s during the week, I just have water.

So back to the Starbucks.  The men, having been denied the code, go sit at a table when the police were called.  Maybe.  It’s hard to understand what happened and in what order.  Did they sit down and have the cops called straight away?  Did the manager ask the men if they were going to order food or coffee?  Did they say that they were but just not right now?  Or did they say, “no”?

At the lunch table, while it’s true that I am waiting for friends and may not have ordered anything, such a scene CLEARLY has the expectation that I and 3 friends will be ordering food.  And, ordering such food without my friends is outside social expectations.  But a coffee shop is different.

See, a coffee shop IS a great place to meet and discuss business.  In fact, the last 2 times I’ve been in a Starbucks has been to conduct business – not a pleasure visit.  And in each case, I arrived before my partner in one and the client in the other.  In both cases I needed a table.  And in both cases I ordered a coffee before sitting down.

Ordering coffee while waiting for friends is not the same as ordering lunch while waiting on friends.

Okay, so, that’s a long way of saying that you have to order something at Starbucks to use the bathrooms or sit at a table.  And maybe the guys didn’t know this or didn’t want to have coffee or a muffin; maybe they just wanted to meet their buddy, chat and go on about their day.  But the manager, I think, asked them if they were going to order and when told they weren’t, asked them to leave.  And then when they didn’t, she called the police.  Who, from accounts, asked the men to leave.  And again, when they wouldn’t, arrested the guys for trespassing.

The question is, “Is this reasonable policy for a coffee shop or did the manager tell these guys to leave because they were black?”

Well, as it turns out, people using coffee shops as remote offices, study halls or general work spaces has been upsetting owners for years:

You can get an espresso at Bread Furst, or a baguette, or a perfect piece of pie. But if you want to get some work done, be prepared: Owner Mark Furstenberg just might ask you to move along.

Note, this is explicit policy.  This guy is straight to the point.

The James Beard Award-nominated baker sees his Van Ness cafe as a neighborhood gathering place — not a second office for ever more prevalent teleworkers. So during peak hours, when he spots laptop lurkers nursing now-cold cups of coffee and occupying precious table space, he asks them to leave. Politely, of course.

And this is his policy when he sees customers nursing cold cups of coffee that they purchased, say nothing of customers occupying table space without having purchased.

And how does Furstenberg handle the situation?

A typical exchange, as he describes it:

Furstenberg: “I’m sorry, this is not your workspace.”

Customer: “What do you mean? I just bought a cup of coffee.”

Furstenberg: “I know, and I’m glad you bought a cup of coffee, and I hope you like the coffee, but other people are waiting for tables.”

Customer: “It’s a public place, isn’t it?”

Furstenberg: “Well, no, actually, it’s not that kind of public place. It’s a place where people come to eat and talk, but it’s not your workspace.”

Customer: “You’re going to decide how I use the space?”

Furstenberg: “Well, yes, actually, I am.”

He asks them to leave.

Furstenberg doesn’t mind if people work in his shop when it isn’t busy, or if they conduct face-to-face business meetings there. It’s the ones he and other cafe owners call “campers” that get to him — you know, the types who buy one cup of coffee, plug in their laptop and earphones and proceed to act as if they own the place, hogging the tables for hours on end.

Now, to be absolutely fair – the guys in Starbucks hadn’t been camping for ‘hours on end’.  I’m sure it was less than 20 minutes, maybe less than 10.  I saw an article that described the time as being 2 minutes.  I maintain that the point remains; this is not a public space like a library is or a park is.  This is a private business.

Is this rare?  I don’t think so.  It’s common enough to be studied:

A common complaint from business owners is that campers act as if they own the place. According to University of North Carolina at Greensboro marketing professor Merlyn Griffiths, they think they do.

The feeling is that “as long as I have something that indicates that I’ve participated in an exchange” — a cup of coffee, or a muffin — “I have a right, quote unquote, to be here,” says Griffiths, who has studied customer territorial behaviors in coffee shops. It creates a sense of “temporary psychological ownership.”

My main point is that I think coffee shops are feeling frustrated at folks who use their space.  It’s a thing; not made up or fabricated by some racist barista.  But a more subtle point is that in all the cases I’ve brought up, the customer was actually a CUSTOMER!  They actually bought something.

In Philly – those two guys never did.

Now, do I think that a Starbucks manager would call the cops on me and that I would get arrested.  Nope, I don’t.  Maybe she called the cops and got on those guys ’cause they were black.  Maybe.  But I also know this – I would never have asked to use the bathroom without purchasing something, never mind sitting at a table.  And if, IF, I did and the manager approached me regarding such behavior, I would ABSOLUTELY have bought a coffee.  But even if I didn’t do that, there is no way, no set of circumstances, that I would have said no to a cop who asked me to leave the shop.

 

Police Shootings

So, three things have happened:

  1. The calendar flipped to February
  2. A shooting occurred in my little home town involving a cop
  3. The Super Bowl ended

Okay, four things – I am beginning to study and learn R.

I’ve known about the effort at the Washington Post to record all of the police shootings in the US since 2015.  Because the requirements to self report are terrible, the Post relies on local news coverage, eye witness accounts and even social media to obtain the data they keep for each shooting.  This means that often all of those details are not available for days or even weeks.  I’m hoping that with us moving into February, the details surrounding 2017 incidents are complete.

The news out of my little corner of the world in Southwest Minnesota kinda nudged me back to this reality.

Both of these things were timed with the ending of the NFL’s 2017 season which, of course, carried with it the Anthem protests carried out by many NFL players.

As the Minnesota Vikings transformed their year from disastrous to glorious I bought a new vehicle.  This car had the advantage of Bluetooth connectivity which allowed me the luxury of listening to Twin Cities sports talk radio.  Which meant that my normal listening patterns were thrown into chaos.  The winner?  ESPN 1500 talk.  The loser?  1A.

But before 1A gave way to the Vikings I did listen to a number of shows that mentioned the kneeling protests.  From the interviews I listened to I understand the reason the players were kneeling was to protest the treatment of people of color in the United States, specifically treatment at the hands of police.

With the data now in for 2015, 16 and 17, the NFL season concluded and the violent reminder of such encounters, I am going to try and look into the data and see what there is to see.

The Point of the Point

As I mentioned in my last post – we still have work to do as a nation with regards to racial relations.  We do.  A even pedestrian awareness bears that out.  Also in my last post, I mentioned:

And, as long as there is work to do, we should do it. And measure it. And always keep the eye on the ball.

And measure it.

As in, keep track of progress, or lack of it, so that one day we’ll know when we ‘have arrived’.  Which is an interesting thought.  What will ‘we have arrived at a post racial world’ look like?  I’m not sure, but I think I have one characteristic.

We will identify our heroes and villains based on qualities not race racial in nature.  We might like a football player because he is a great athlete [are we here already in this case?], or an actor for her skills on stage.  Perhaps a politician for his policies, or a movie character for his -her- ‘coolness’ as portrayed in a movie.

This might look like, for example, a black kid from Nigeria, or say randomville Indiana, might wanna dress as Cinderella.  Or, in a similar manner, a white kid might wanna dress as Moana.

Not because they wanna go as a white girl from Western Europe or because they wanna go as a brown girl from the Pacific Islands.  But because they wanna go as the heroic, or loveable, character they have fallen in love with in the screen or in their book.

And the fact that those characters are white or fall on some spectrum of color is as incidental as the fact that they have shoes, boots, slippers or no footwear.

That seems to me the world we’re striving for.  A world where the color of a person is not important in the calculus to the determination of their worth.

So why this?

At this point, you might be saying something like: “But, I dressed up as Jasmine as a child, and I’m not a racist!”, or, “It’s just a Halloween costume, please chill the f*ck out.” But one of the best things about time is that it moves forward. You should too. You can (and should) strive to be better than you were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. If you missed the mark when you were younger, maybe think about using this Halloween as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of cultural sensitivity. If your child’s dream costume feels questionable, don’t just throw up your hands and hand over your credit card. You’re the parent here, and the onus of what your child wears falls on you. If your kid wears a racist costume … you’re kind of wearing it too.

Recognize this: Moana is a really special character to young girls of Polynesian descent who have never seen a Disney Princess who looks like them, just like how Tiana from The Princess and the Frog likely resonated with young Black women who had waited decades to see themselves represented. White girls have plenty of princesses to choose from — there’s Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty … you get the idea. If your Caucasian son or daughter doesn’t get to be exactly what they wanted for Halloween, encourage them to take a step back and realize that they’re awash in privileges that the real Moanas and Tianas of the world will likely never see, because the world is full of racist assholes.

It’s views like this that drive me crazy.  Simply crazy.

  1.  We WANT white girls to see brown/black girls as heroes.
  2. We WANT to stop using race as an identifier.
  3. We have GOT to stop mind reading racist in far too many aspects of life – there are enough real life versions.

So, Cosmo, NYPost and Race Conscious.org – chill.  White parents letting their white kids idolize people of color is a meaningful step in the right direction.  Celebrate this development, not bash it.

I. Have. No. Words.

First, I need to say this.

My life is easier than the same life of a man who is black.  Same background, same education, same income, kids, cars, job and all the rest of it.  My life is easier.

Drop me off in any random city/town in the US of A and I’m almost surely going to be alright.

But today is better than yesterday.  And yesterday is WAY better than it was when I was born.

Way.

And until my life isn’t easier because I’m not black than it is form my friends who are black, we have work to do.  And, as long as there is work to do, we should do it.  And measure it.  And always keep the eye on the ball.

All that being said, and what was said is much more than just over 100 words typed, I have to say, this is some crazy shit.  Ca-Razy:

A university professor has claimed teaching maths perpetuates “unearned” white privilege.

What?  How..?  Are you kidding me?

She is not:

Titled “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods”, Ms Gutierrez argues a focus on Pythagorean theorem and pi feed into the idea that maths was developed by the Greeks and Europeans.

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” she wrote, according to Campus Reform.

Does she know what we call our numeral system?  Does she know who is credited with the discovery of zero?  The development of algebra?  She must – she teaches this.  But how can she ignore those facts?

But now moving forward, history being history, she begins to question math itself:

“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?”

She also believes society’s focus on maths as a key skill can perpetuate discrimination against minorities.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she wrote.

Umm, yes.  We are really THAT smart because we can do math.  And yes, math is a key skill.  Key in getting a job, key in keeping a job.  Key in organizing one’s life.  And living it well.  And increasing the odds that upon death, there will be a legacy to leave behind for the next generations.

As I mentioned, there is work to be done; less than yesterday, but enough labor to go around.  Such labor would be easier to ear without the addition of unrelenting false victimization that we see in these times.

 

Ditka – Oppression

Mike Ditka waxing poetic the other day on the issue of football players kneeling during the National Anthem, had this to say:

All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka said. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody. … If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything.

Mike.

Over here sparky.

I get that you might not see color when you are dealing with players or colleagues.  I get that you might not be guilty of the profiling and bigotry that many folks are experiencing.  But pssst ….. things have been bad, WAY bad, for black people well inside of 100 years.

Think not being able to vote.

Own a house.
Go to school.
Play in Major League Baseball.
Marrying people you love.
Walking without fear of being killed.

There has been significant oppression in the last 100 years.  And a guy with your platform can’t afford to say otherwise.

Perspective

Lots of emotion going on lately.  Thought I’d take a break and see what someone else has to say.  I don’t agree with all of it, or even most of it, but there are friends and family out there that do.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Where Does the End Come

I just posted when I saw this on my feed:

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) —
Protesters in Durham rushed and toppled a Confederate statue outside the courthouse on Monday evening.

The monument of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle was erected in 1924 and inscribed on it are the words “in memory of the boys who wore the gray.”

Nobody wants this to end.

Reason Absent

 

Charlottesville is a hot shitty mess.   And it’s been a long time in coming.

My thoughts, bullet list style:

  • America is not a racist nation
  • White nationalists are racist assholes
  • Black nationalists are racist assholes
  • The first amendment matters
  • The sixth commandment matters
  • Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist
  • If you are a racist, you likely voted for Trump
  • The Civil War was fought over slavery
  • Many MANY Confederate soldiers and officers were noble honorable warriors
  • Removing Confederate statues does not carry moral worth

 

My heart breaks as Charlottesville unfolds.  So much pain, so much tragedy, so much misplaced … misplaced ‘righteousness’.

Such bullshit.

What is it about human nature that we always see the ‘other’ in the other?  Why is it that we can’t see the common?  See that each of us, almost all of us, wants the same thing?  We wanna love, deeply, and then fall ever deeper in love.  We want a home safe from danger, to live with the front door unlocked, and wake up to sunshine and birds in the yard.

I have never known a neighbor that didn’t want their kids to play in the street, to go to a good school, then a good college and then a good job.  Marriage and kids of their own are next.  We all want that picket fence.  Why do we need to hate?  And hurt?  And be so afraid?

When did we all become so afraid?

Why are we so afraid of the way each lives his life?  Why do we care if he reads Asimov?  Or he reads Othello?  Or she plays chess or he Pokemon?  How can it determine the content if he enjoys listening to this style of music or she enjoys studying this war; this artist or this general?  How can that matter so SO much?

As I watch the news and listen to the radio and read the papers I am inundated.  Inundated with the horror, the rage, the vile nature of the worst example of us.

This is not us – this is not who we are.

Reject it.  Simply reject the premise and make your own way; shit, continue on the glorious noble way that you’ve already forged.  Do it with honor, do it boldly, do it with the same compassion and love that drove you to that place to begin with.

Because the alternative is simply impossible.  It is impossible to live in the world envisioned by those who perpetuate the divide.

For just one fuckin’ second, consider how we are the same and stop focusing on how we’re different.

Racists and Affirmative Action

What’s Wrong About the “What’s Wrong With America” Narrative

A black cop shot a white woman.

And there is something wrong with America.  Or so says this article from CNN.  My thoughts.

There’s a predictable pattern to the aftermath of too many deadly police shootings: Neighbors and anti-police brutality groups take to the streets. Groups supporting the officers stand up for them. Social media lights up over whether the victim “did something” to provoke the officer.

This hardly ever happens.  Cops kill hundreds of civilians every year and we see protests rarely.

But none of that holds true in the case of Justine Ruszczyk, a white Australian bride-to-be who was killed by Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American black police officer in Minneapolis.

All of that held true.  Protests happened and the chief was fired.

Because the race and nationality of the victim and police officer aren’t what has typically garnered headlines, people who normally speak up aren’t saying much.

The race of the victim is the race most often killed by cops.  As for who aren’t saying much – it’s because even though white people are most often shot by cops, white people don’t think cops are targeting white people.

New York Daily News writer Shaun King wrote a column in which he said “Police brutality jumped a racial fence.”

See above – most victims of shot by police are white.

Love theorizes a different group of people may take the lead in rallying for the victim in this case: “people who may not have emphathized with the victims (in police shootings in the past) because the victims have been mostly black.”

The lack of fact based reporting is staggering.  Most of the victims are not black – they are white.

Too often in cases involving unarmed black men, Chatelain says, information on the victim’s criminal history or prior arrests makes its way into stories — even when they are irrelevant to the case.

Criminal history ABSOLUTELY is relevant to interactions with the police.

So what does this say about America in 2017, where the race, gender or national identity of a victim or police officer can affect the public’s reaction to a shooting?

Uumm, the only, and I mean ONLY, time we have cared about the race of the victim is when that victim is black.

“We haven’t reckoned with our history,” Goff told CNN, “so it shouldn’t surprise us to see a different reaction.”

When the victim is black, we have seen mass protests and destruction.  When the victim is white we see muted reactions, if any at all.  What is Goff talking about?