In today’s society, there are so many things to be outraged about, from the medical system to taxes to technology’s erosion of privacy rights. It’s puzzling to me that out of all the outrageous things happening in the world, so many people are outraged about the fact that two people, who happen to be black, were arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave a Starbucks.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the two men were at Starbucks, where they were planning to meet someone. They asked to use the restroom and were told no, as store policy is not to allow people to use the restroom unless they buy something. A little later, an employee went to their table and asked if they would like to order something. They said no. Because they didn’t buy anything, they were asked to leave. They refused. They were asked to leave two more times and continued to refuse, and eventually a manager called the cops.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has called this incident “reprehensible” and people have been boycotting and protesting the coffee chain, saying things like “Shame on you Starbucks.”
In my opinion, this reaction is completely excessive. Perhaps calling the cops was a bit of an overreaction, but it’s entirely reasonable to kick someone out of a café or restaurant if they aren’t buying anything. Perhaps the cops wouldn’t have been called if the two men were white; perhaps they would have been. There’s no way to know. The Starbucks protests are an example of the tendency to assume, that if anything bad happens to someone black, it must have happened because they are black.
An opinion piece by the Boston Globe’s Renee Graham exemplifies this attitude. “To be black is to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time because, in America, there is never a right place for black people,” she wrote. “Everything black people do is weighted by irrational white fear. It’s mentally exhausting to always be on guard, even during mundane moments.” About an incident where a person, who happened to be black, was tragically shot by a suspicious homeowner after knocking on the door to ask for directions, she wrote, “Even with my lousy sense of direction, I wouldn’t run the risk of ending up in jail or dead because somebody criminalized my blackness.”
This is completely nonsensical and has no basis in reality. All of America is the right place for black people, as well as people of any race. No one “criminalizes blackness.” There is no reason for people of any race to feel that they need to be constantly on guard to avoid ending up dead or in jail. Police brutality can happen to people of any race. So can tragic misunderstandings. It’s no fun to be mentally exhausted, but Graham is mentally exhausting herself for no reason.
“Nothing will ever change until a majority of white people in this nation stop perceiving black existence as sinister and suspicious,” Graham continues. “Talking about racism may hurt white people’s feelings, but their unchecked racism continues to endanger our black lives.”
But a majority of white people has never perceived black existence as sinister or suspicious. Graham is seeing racism where it does not exist, and she is insultingly dismissing differing opinions as “hurt feelings.” Not to mention the fact that by writing of “irrational white fear” and white people’s “unchecked racism,” Graham is actually being racist. Something is wrong with our society when anything that even remotely resembles racism against blacks – such as being kicked out of Starbucks – is considered “reprehensible,” while blatant racism against whites is considered perfectly fine.