You may have already heard – see Melissa DePino’s Twitter feed – about two innocent black patrons being forcibly hauled away from a Starbucks by Philadelphia’s finest. Bulldozer-through-the-drywall ambushes like this, day after routine day, decade after lived decade, are what white privilege really, truly looks like
Driving/walking/shopping/dining-while-black are intolerable clichés because of their insane normality: they happen constantly and brutally to people of color who are not believed when we report them, and they never, ever happen to white people to whom these experiences sound like some impossibly dystopian nightmare.
One of the redeeming qualities of cell phones – which have done plenty to deaden us to the immediacy of our surrounding human company – is that they can now instantly and globally deliver video of happenings that non-affected people have previously found easy to dismiss as mere stories. No more. Today, the only remaining people who will defend what happened on April 12 to two black men awaiting a white friend at a Starbucks in Philadelphia are those who would eagerly wait on a hearth on Christmas Eve for a Ku Klux Klan Santa Claus to descend though the chimney bearing personal gifts for white supremacists.
Handwritten note to American white people: Awful things that have never happened to you happen every day to black Americans, and they happen with the authority and approval of official institutions of public safety, including Philadelphia’s police department, led by a black chief.
We black and brown citizens, however, will not tolerate this. Will you, as a white citizen, remain silent? Or will you join us in the imperative to do unto others as you would have done unto you?
The supreme irony is that Starbucks’ notoriously bitter brand of roasted coffee is nowhere near worth getting arrested for in the first place.