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The Starbucks coffeehouse at 18th and Spruce Streets where the 'arrest incident' happened last week. Photo: Linn Washington Jr.
The Starbucks coffeehouse at 18th and Spruce Streets where the 'arrest incident' happened last week. Photo: Linn Washington Jr.

Starbucks & Philadelphia’s Bitter Brew Of Embarrassing Ignorance

The ignorance factor elevated Philadelphia to international ignominy in the now infamous ‘Starbucks Arrest Incident’.

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May 27th, 2022

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The ignorance factor elevated Philadelphia to international ignominy – Once Again – in the now infamous ‘Starbucks Arrest Incident’ where numbskull members of the Philadelphia Police Department aggravated an individual act of insidious bigotry with an unnecessary arrest.

All the commotion around corporate policies, police procedures and public apologies obscured the simple fact that a Starbucks employee broke Philadelphia law that bars discrimination in public accommodations and local law enforcers excused that white law breaker to execute flawed enforcement against two black men.

Philadelphia’s law protects the “basic right to fair and equal treatment” in public accommodations according to a City Hall website page that states public accommodation includes “places where food and/or drinks are served”...like a Starbucks coffeehouse.

That City website posting notes discrimination occurs “when someone is offered less favorable service than others.”

A caffeinated example of someone receiving less favorable service than others is when a Starbucks manager denies bathroom use to a black man on the claim that a purchase is required for toilet access while allowing others bathroom use without making the required purchase. 

Perhaps the Starbucks manager who summoned police on the two black men two minutes after they entered the coffeehouse at 18th and Spruce Streets in the ritzy Rittenhouse Square area did not know that her disgusting bathroom denying bigotry was illegal.

However, responding law enforcers should have known the City’s laws on public accommodation.

Inexcusable ignorance about law from law enforcers connects to another concern. 

A prejudicially repugnant record of stalking blacks exists among PPD personnel in the police district that includes 18th and Spruce and other Center City sections.

That 9th Police District has the highest levels of race tainted pedestrian stops in the entire city. The PPD’s own data documents that African-Americans were 67 percent of the police stops in the 9th District in 2017 despite blacks being just three percent of that District’s population.

That disparity evidences the daily discrimination endured by blacks and Latinos downplayed blithely by City Hall and too many in Philadelphia’s corporate, civic and church sectors – spheres where ethical leadership is sorely lacking. 

Too many easily overlook realities of racism as if some steam evaporating from a cup of hot coffee.

Less than two miles south of 18th-&-Spruce in the gentrifying Point Breeze section, racially discriminatory ‘redlining’ in mortgage lending is rampant, fifty-years after passage of the federal Fair Housing Act.

One half mile slightly southwest of 18th-&-Spruce the annual Odunde Festival, founded in 1975, faces disparagement from some gentrifiers dislike the fact that the largest African-American street festival in America is staged in ‘their community.’ 

The inspiration for Odunde is a Yoruba festival in the African nation of Nigeria. The spiritual leader of the Yoruba area that inspired Odunde, Araba Igayemi Elebuibon, visited Philadelphia while protests roiled against Starbucks. He noted the importance of knowledge as an antidote for ignorance.

The need for knowledge about dignity damaging structural discrimination abounds. That need requires more than a few hours training about implicit bias.

 

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