By ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY
You too, Starbucks? Once considered a ‘safe’ territory, this past week set off a round of outrage and calls for economic boycotts against the business. Why? Two black men were arrested for not obeying the police who were called for a loitering complaint at a Starbucks store. Loitering in Starbucks? No such thing can possibly happen since the company itself issues an open invitation to the public to do just that. It’s part of their cultural profile: to have the public come in to join the larger community of others gathered in the store; to stay for as long as you like.
But this is a racist America where too many folks continue to feel entitled to mistreat another person because of their ‘otherness’ seeming, those who are just not white enough.
Remember the ad campaign: “Do blonds have more fun?” It may not be PC today, but we have not gotten very far away from that notion, and the promotions in support of that concept.
Perhaps a bit subtler, but what continues to happen in America with many descendants of the European founding fathers, is reinforcements of their belief of superiority and entitlement.
There are some in the media, and other places of thought-exchange, who have suggested that the rise of “Trumpism”: a new religious zeal for everything becoming ‘whiter-greater, again, is to blame. That’s too easy. Besides, I don’t want to give ‘45’ any additional power.
Yet, there is something to be said about the lingering, barely beneath the surface, of racism, and the sick, mind disease of thinking that anyone is less than you; or that you may be, and therefore act on a feeling of being superior.
As recently as the twentieth century, pseudo-scientific theories were touted which promoted the false notion that the so called white race was superior, and that Africans/Blacks were naturally inferior. Now debunked, it is so ingrained in all our minds yes, too many Blacks are still overcoming centuries of being treated as inferior, and/or relegated to all the metaphorical backs of the buses, that there is work to be undone all around.
It is a well-established fact that all mankind emerged out of Africa, but these beliefs in some type of racial superiority die hard, slow deaths. And in America, these beliefs are part of the fabric of our political and cultural policies. In fact, the ranking and rating of racial classifications-though false- is central in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, a pillar in the early shaping of our constitution and policies.
Don’t ever forget that this nation was founded on the reliance on slaves, that is, free labor, and the country is still recovering from the emancipation of that free labor into the marketplace; trying to balance the vast economic differences between the northern industrialized states and the former agrarian south. Reconstruction? It hasn’t nearly been completed in the social constructs of the nation- and many of the remnants from that north/south divide are prevalent in how blacks get treated- across various regions of America.
This is a highly mobile society. We are interconnected instantly through social media. There are no real boundaries or barriers anymore. This idea of being able to get away with treating any person inhumanely is lost forever-you will be video-taped! We all live in public spaces, even when we are acting out in private.
And, we are all equal under the rule of law maybe the one last thing that keeps America separated from many other parts of the world.
So, even though Starbucks is a private place, the police are an arm of the law, and in this case, they should have known better. The only good news coming out of this story is that the brothers were not shot-in the back while ‘resisting’ the arrest.