I’m Upset About a Coffee House in Philadelphia

Last night, I turned on the news and there was increasing coverage everywhere about the Starbucks incident with two African-American men being arrested for ‘trespassing’ in a local store. The incident has gained national momentum and attention to the degree that the CEO has met with the two gentlemen and proclaimed a day of sensitivity training for nearly 8000 stores. I listened to Don Lemon on CNN interview the CEO and ask him whether or not he really believed that ‘one day’ would be a sufficient amount of time to desensitize the discriminate nature of this revealing expose of racism in our country. The CEO didn’t have an answer but expressed an emotional reaction to the controversy.

In a followup after the interview, Don Lemon brought on W.Kamau Bell to speak to the general reaction and commentary of the CEO, Kevin Johnson, of Starbucks. Bell hosts the exceptional series, United Shades of America, (Season 3: Premieres Sunday, April 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT) on CNN.

To be clear, I’m a white guy reacting to an issue that impacts black people every day, not just an isolated incident in a Philadelphia coffee shop, and that was the general pitch of Don Lemon and W. Kamau Bell’s final commentary. In a manner of speaking they theorized how might a white CEO of a major industry empathize with the reality of racism in today’s society. Certainly, Kevin Johnson is putting a face on a possibility, but I think our society needs to realize that is only a start. Much like the students of Broward County and their efforts to raise awareness in a privileged society, I listened to their final words because I personally am looking for an answer.

I know racism exists. I know I have my own prejudicial misgivings. I think what bothers me the most is when people seem to suggest that not talking about it will just make things better, make things go away. The reality is, by not having dialogue, the resentment, the frustration, the explosive backlash becomes a greater concern than if there were a conversation. The discussion takes time though, takes courage, demands commitment from all people involved.

I think what Lemon and Bell are suggesting is that too often we bandaid the issue, and it rises up again. Tonight, in social media a friend of mine indicated that everything is about hate. What if we actively turned that around? What if we made everything about love? What if we got past the idea that it is easier to despise than it is to put effort into understanding? What if instead of declaring the Philadelphia incident as an anomaly, we admittedly took action to recognize such discrimination exists? We don’t have to define it, we simply have to accept the reality of our society’s ills and the need to open our hearts to admitting the surface level of fear that creates such a problematic mindset is real and not overstated by a liberal versus conservative party of thinking.

I can’t help wonder what it might be like to create dialogue between differing parties without onlookers with agenda and attitude to tear down the chance to allow people to learn from one another rather than destroy opportunity. Seems idealistic certainly, but its really. If we understand each other, we can look one another in the eye. If we remain afraid of one another, then the wall will remain in tact.

In Philadelphia an individual seemingly, well quite obviously overreacted to a normal gathering of two human beings who began their day never imagining their world to be turned upside down by a discriminatory motive. Let me restate that. The two gentlemen in Philadelphia began their days completely aware that at any moment their lives could be marginalized by racial profiling because of the color of their skin. However, in their lives, they have learned it is a necessary reality for them to constantly be aware of a negative circumstance unfolding right before their very eyes.

That happened in a Philadelphia Starbucks, and the two individuals wrongfully arrested created a hailstorm of controversy that speaks to what certain cultures have to accept and go through every day. I’m a white guy, and I don’t have to experience this, but I see it. I’m a teacher and I have students of every race in my classroom, and the one thing I demand of my day, is that every individual in my room is respected as much as the next person. The two gentlemen in Starbucks need to have been treated as equally as anyone else in the store.

The need exists, the dialogue, communication, desire to understand must begin. We cannot continue to simply look away.

Advertisements

CBS Sunday Morning News Gaffe – April 15th, 2018

Melissa DePino - Starbucks - Philadelphia

Melissa DePino – Philadelphia – Starbucks


I’m disappointed in the CBS Sunday Morning news article on the Starbucks empire this morning (April 15th, 2018). Clearly, when the producers first put together the article on Howard Schultz’s successful coffee career, correspondent Mo Rocca didn’t anticipate an incident in Philadelphia would overshadow his focus upon the success of the Starbucks entrepeneur.

(At this writing I am not able to find a link to the Mo Rocca article to share).

When Kai Ryssdal, the CBS Sunday Morning host this week, introduced the article, he initially took the time to report on the ‘breaking story’ of two African-American males being removed in handcuffs from a Philadelphia Starbucks for what appears to have been two Black men sitting in the coffee shop without making a purchase. Further research, NPR article  would suggest they were waiting for a friend to arrive, and when asked to leave, declined, and police were called.

From there the incident blew up and a young woman, Melissa DePino, caught the entire incident on her phone – thus creating this viral video, none of which was covered in Mr. Ryssdal’s initial introduction on CBS Sunday Morning.

Here is where my issue arose. The host introduced the already in place article with a controversial telling of an actual Starbuck’s incident in Philadelphia that in my eyes trumped (sic) the fanfare of the Starbuck success story. Discrimination is not successful, and it is also not talked about. Instead, it remains an afterthought.

I believe this was a missed opportunity by Kai Ryssdal, despite his attempt to include the incident, what was his motive? Was he told by the producers of CBS Sunday Morning News that we must include this incident before running the article on Starbucks, or did he do it on his own? I think the issue of priority raises serious questions about our society and how we choose to neglect or emphasize topics that do touch on sensitive issues versus those that will satisfy the majority of a news article’s listeners.

In her own retelling of the incident, Melissa DePino states in her interview, this would not have happened to her. In other words, because of the color of her skin, she would not have been asked to leave the store without a purchase. Personally, I agree with her, and being a frequent coffee shop connoisseur I can speak frankly and say I have had many meetings with people in coffee shop where either myself or my associates did not make a purchase and in all cases we were never approached to leave – certainly the police were not called to intervene. That would not happen.

In looking at the story and the incident itself, the two men removed did not protest the directives of the police and left without incident while the shop patrons all watched with concern, question and interpretation. Since, Starbucks has issued an apology on Twitter, and the men have been released and the incident is under review. That is all fine, and all should happen, but it still brings me back to my frustration with the CBS article and more specifically how we handle such situations in our society.

We don’t.

We choose to focus on moving away from important dialogue rather than facing it head on. Perhaps this was a golden opportunity for Kai Ryssdal to address the issue of discrimination and make this week’s news story a commentary on the continuing issue that occurs and impacts people of color throughout our society.

I am convinced had Rysdaal rather than run the article on Howard Schultz and his successful career, instead turned the next five or six minutes into a discussion and commentary of the Philadelphia incident there would have been controversy. Producers would have changed jobs in the coming week, and Rysdaal might have risked his own opportunity for further hosting opportunities in Jane Pauley’s absence.

My question is why not take the risk? Why not say we’re going to run the Starbucks story next week, because we have a situation that merits discussion today, that has more impact on our society than we would like to understand. I guarantee there would have been a ratings spike of viewership that would have stayed, rather than change the channel after Ryssdal slapped a band-aid on the discrimination and jumped immediately into the cacao fields of the Starbucks empire.

I’m disappointed that when we see opportunity we choose not to address the important issues of our society that are relevant. I’m saddened by the reality that the dialogue on discrimination continues to take the backseat to anything that will allow us to quickly move away from the issue rather than face it head on.

Let me be clear, until this last paragraph I have not used the word systemic to describe an issue in our society that clearly exists, but I did today watch a major news outlet – CBS News – pass by a wonderful opportunity to recognize the need for dialogue in our extremely mosaic world. The conversations if they cannot occur on a national or international level certainly will be far more difficult to create on a local level. However, they need to. Today Kai Ryssdal and CBS Sunday Morning missed an opportunity.

Where do we begin?

 

Episodic Rituals

There are times when in my real life I cry,

it is sudden,

something I cannot control,

watching the illusion of our reality,

in the episodic nature of historical fiction,

the retelling of the reality,

we would all like to pretend is

that fiction.

 

And yet,

when I cry there are real tears,

I feel my body heave,

my eyes begin to well,

I listen to the story of the abuse of a society,

and I am immediately enraged,

by the many facets of discrimination.

 

Today DACA,

yesterday the Mexicans,

the Muslims, Blacks, and disregarded

sexual identities.

 

We all watch it every day,

wait for the movie to premiere,

we imagine our own lives,

and wonder about a personal connection,

until it become passe to care about anyone outside of ourselves,

any more.

 

I wonder sometimes about the cruel nature of our lives

why it is we suggest we have compassion,

when around the corner,

the examples await our reaction,

in the shadows,

while the world continues to expand,

the narrow nature of

racism,

continues its

by society’s terms,

ridiculous plight toward

validation.

I Have These Friends

usa-police-protests

ABC News – Baton Rouge

When they walk out the door,

they have natural instincts,

look over their shoulder,

keep a skeptic eye,

they constantly watch their step

while they attend,

make time to be in,

express a similar value,

as do I,

when I go about living my

regular, normal, daily life.

 

I have these friends,

keep their feeling close,

share their values internally,

in such a manner,

we don’t ever see it,

we only hear about it,

when in a time of crisis,

they are asked how to react

when the world they believe,

crumbles with a menacing force

of vitriolic rhetoric,

aimed toward destroying lives,

for the sake of ignorance.

 

I have these friends,

share love and passion,

a desire to respond to beauty,

have an elegant outlook on life,

they smile, they laugh, they support,

the true responsive nature

of the human condition.

These are your friends too,

in fact,

they belong in everyone’s world,

rather than an exclusive gathering

to showcase their humanity.

 

I have these friends,

they are truly more forgiving,

than you and me.

On Donald Trump and Ignorance

For weeks, perhaps months, no to be sure, for the last two years I have struggled with the phenomena that is Donald Trump. I will secretly admit to everyone that a decade ago, when he first threw his name into the hat as a candidate and then swiftly pulled it out because the powers that be told him it was too early, I was intrigued by the idea. For all the right reasons: a non-political, yet wealthy candidate that could finance his own election, and perhaps turn D.C. upside down. Yes, I realize it his task at hand at present, but back then, I really didn’t understand the depth his brain could transgress his ideals.

His latest tweet or podium delivery or emanation from his incredulous mind has me deeply saddened. We have witnessed the grueling scrutiny of our national police force with tragedy upon tragedy that raises remarkable scrutiny upon their efforts. We have watched one trial after another, where the reputation of the police department’s efforts are caught in a catch-22 of a moral compass because of the damaging actions of a few. We have witnessed heads of police forces plead with the public that their wish is to train their departments to be of the highest ethical standard on the streets as they protect the citizenry of our country.

Trump to police: “Don’t be too nice too prisoners” -CNN 7/29/2017

Time and time again I have watched this man make statements in rallies and addresses with an angry flair that denigrates, discriminates and blatantly insults certain society with complete disregard. This time he has taken on the police force. So now, according to the POTUS, he wants the blue shield to rough up the alleged criminals. What does this say to our society? Simply that it is ok to take no prisoners, and let the melee proceed.

For me, it is upsetting enough how this man has allowed his vitriolic verbal assaults, to literally wake the dead in regards to racist slurs, homophobic slams, and supremacist ideals. Yet, those close to him suggest he is misunderstood.

We live in a world today that can ill afford to walk itself back 50 years and forget the efforts necessary to create a mosaic life in the United States. How can we possibly move forward if our elected President of the United States continues to demean the efforts of many in our society to remove the literal walls we have fought to break down for decades.

There is no easy answer, beyond asking this man to find his integrity, and that will seem to be a long time coming, maybe less than one term. We can only hope.

 

Feed My Starving Ego

I am that man,
quiet exterior,
turbulent insides that mock,
the true nature of my kind, soft,
demeanor.
Give me something to chew on,
I will respond,
sustenance is my substance, of course,
that’s what they tell me,
I strive to organize my plate
with all the resources available,
give me strength,
let me value the grace of
a well fed ego before the reality around me
turns my insides out.

I walk amongst the people,
the ones I choose,
and they feed me with wrath, avarice, confusion,
so when I react,
when time comes upon me to be a leader,
I will starve you all
with my own satisfaction,
until my appetite,
my enormous caverns of self-righteous
ego
can far outweigh the needs around me,
ah, calorie counters,
I love calorie counters,
they’re my favorite people.

Give me the liberty to react
with my own agenda
so I can satisfy my own hunger
for the eyes,
the fabulous eyes,
that allow me to think I have
ignited the fires,
set in motion the movement,
while beyond the green screen facade,
the real starvation continues,
just beyond my scope of vision.
Let them eat cake.

Bigotry Screams

I live in the United States – all my life, though I have had opportunity to travel, this is where my freedom has always evolved. In recent days we lost Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia to death. He was 79 years old. This man was highly respected for his strong views in a conservative lens. His views, stature and decisive nature will be sorely missed by those with a need to have a conservative voice in the judicial process. This is all very sad, as losing people in our lives can be. I can only imagine the feeling of compassion needed for his family during this difficult time. I can’t speak directly to it, because I am not in that inner circle. I can only speak to my own reaction to the loss of one I love in my own family network. But, that’s not the point of this commentary.

I actually want to speak more to the bigotry of a nation of freedom that I count upon to maintain my own sense of freewill. I’ve grown up with this all my life. I’m white. I haven’t had to fight for my freedom anytime in my life. I don’t wake up in the morning and step out the door and wonder when my first indications of harassment may occur. I don’t wait for it to happen because in my life it seldom has, unless I put myself in a difficult situation where the stress upon me is well deserved.

Right now, this free country of ours is experiencing Black History Month – actually it is being celebrated by those who pay attention. Today, February 15th, 2016, we celebrated President’s Day – a time to recognize the important leadership in our country that has laid the groundwork for our freedom. Tonight, as I decide to write this essay, I am experiencing a certain hypocrisy in our lives. We are being told by our Republican senate that we cannot let our POTUS select the next Supreme Court Justice to fill the vacancy left by SCJ Scalia’s unfortunate departure. We have one Senator McConnell who in 2005 stated that only the President of the United States can nominate a new Supreme Court Justice now suggesting that our current residing President Obama will not be allowed to name our next Supreme Court Justice.

On the surface this looks again like the Republican party trying to control the government. However, in a deeper context this is clearly the perfect storm of the bigotry that has existed from the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency. We live in a very frightening time when the Black Man is under constant scrutiny to such a degree that the person holding the highest position in our office is racially discriminated. This actually makes me very sick, and all I wanted to do was get my thoughts down. On another occasion, I promise I will write with less ramble.

For now, please recognize the ticking bomb our Senate has created in this free country of ours. Please accept my apologies. Peace, and continue to celebrate Black History Month.