First, over two decades ago, we had “driving while black”; and then locally we recently had “walking while black” (the incident involving Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell on the campus of Case/Western that has yet to be publically addressed in any meaningful way since the response of university officials has been to simply duck their heads and run for cover). Now we have “sitting while black,” in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.
Two black men were waiting for another man (white) to join them in the coffee shop for a business meeting, and one of the brothers asked to use the locked restroom and evidently was told that it was reserved for paying customers only. Now, at this point, I would have simply bought a cup of coffee — something I probably would have already had done as soon as I entered the place to wait for the other person. I’m big on avoiding confrontation at this juncture in my life when and wherever possible.
But the point is, there is little doubt that a white person could have engaged in the exact same behavior and not have been asked to leave, and then have the cops called on them for not vacating the premises. In point of fact, people use Starbucks as a meeting place all the time without making a purchase, and the cops are not called, so as long as the person happens to be white. After all, this is still America.
But the biggest villain in all of this is the black police commissioner who stated that his officers did nothing wrong in arresting the two black men for trespassing. However, his officers were wrong, and so too was he. The question the police officers — upon their arrival — should have asked the manager who made the call is this: “Are these men being treated any differently than anyone else because they are black?” Are the “rules” being applied evenly?
Of course, the white female manager would probably have lied through her teeth and swore up and down that her call to the police wasn’t racially inspired … but isn’t that’s what they always say, even when engaging in racist behavior that goes far, far beyond the pale — “It isn’t racial.” Bullshit.
The fact the brother-men stood up for themselves and would not put their tails between their legs and wimp out of the coffeehouse like a pair of whipped puppies — something my old, punk ass would have probably done — has put them in line to make the two entities (the City of Philadelphia and Starbucks, both of which has tons of money and great insurance policies) pay dearly for their racist behavior. And in the end, that’s the only thing that’s going to stop this kind of nonsense — making them pay.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.