Photo: Linn Washington Jr.
Photo: Linn Washington Jr. 

The price of prejudice in Philadelphia sadly keeps soaring

What is the price of prejudice in Philadelphia? For the infamous Starbucks incident, that price is $200,000, all payable by the City (and therefore the…


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That outrageous incident sprang from a classic violation of Philadelphia’s law barring prejudice in public accommodation. The apparent perpetrator of that violation was a Starbucks manager who called police to remove two black men two minutes after they entered that coffee shop.

Language in Philadelphia’s Fair Practices law emphasizes that discrimination in public accommodation “causes embarrassment” and is detrimental to the “economic growth of the city.”

The two black men victimized by that prejudicial arrest recently settled with City Hall. Each graciously requested one dollar plus a commitment from the City to provide $200,000 to set up a program to assist young entrepreneurs.

Kudos to those racism victims for their vision to establish such a program. However, remember that $200,000 is really payable not by the City but by the city—that’s city with a lower case ‘c’—meaning all who pay taxes to the City of Philadelphia. 

Repugnantly, that $200,000 will not come directly from the budget of the Philadelphia Police Department whose members appeased the prejudice of that Starbucks manager. 

And none of the individual policemen involved in that embarrassing arrest will see their salaries and/or pensions deducted to compensate taxpayers for that $200,000 expenditure arising from the refusal of those officers to listen to customers in that shop who told those officers those two men did nothing wrong.

Should taxpayers demand that the PPD budget shoulder some of the financial burden for that settlement?


It’s accountability for the apparent failure of ranking members of the PPD to address a big problem at that Starbucks location near Rittenhouse Square.

Recently released PPD data—911 call logs—document that during 2017 police responded to over two dozen 911 calls from Starbucks personnel at that location for what police coded as ‘disorderly crowds.’

Those 28 calls for disorderly crowds is an alarming increase from the previous year when police received just two 911 calls for disorderly crowds from that Starbucks.

During the first four months of 2018, there were another five 911 calls related to alleged disturbances at that location. 

The PPD hasn’t revealed what action police took to specifically address that upsurge in 911 disorderly crowds calls. 

Those calls coincided with the arrival of the same white manager who called cops in April 2018 on those two black men.

Police had a public safety duty to deal with resolving the (alleged) problem of disorderly crowds creating disturbances at that Starbucks.

Police had a duty to determine if the problem was really disorderly crowds or actually discriminatory behavior by that manager. If the latter, then a charge for the crime of false reporting was appropriate. 

With prejudice, the larger cost is its price continues to escalate because resistance persists among too many institutions and individuals that prevent the forthright attacks needed to reduce that systemic scourge.


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