Sitting In Starbucks While Black

GUEST COMMENTARY--In this once-reasonably-fair democracy in the year of our ostensible Lord 2018, two African-American guyssitting peaceablyin a Philadelphia Starbucks waiting for a friend to show up for a meeting were charged with "trespassing" by Starbucks staff, asked "politely" three times to leave, and thenarrested by a swarm of six cops when they declined to do so. 

The shop's manager reportedly called police after the men asked to use the bathroom but didn't buy anything while they waited - a practice evidently common enough among Starbucks users that most of the almost four million outraged people who've now viewed video of the scene noted that huh, actually, they do that all the time. (Many are white.)

Their disbelief was matched by Andrew Yaffe, the (white) real estate developer they were waiting for, when he arrivedto see his two friends carted off - preternaturally calm - in handcuffs.

"What did they  DO?" he demands, before asking other patrons another excellent question. "Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?”Yup, they say. Police nonetheless arrested, fingerprinted and photographed the men; they considered charging them with "defiant trespass” - second cousin to uppity - but let them go hours later “because of lack of evidence” a crime was committed,  at least by them.

The ugly spectacle drew a lame apology from Starbucks - "We are disappointed this led to an arrest” - and a statement from Philadelphia's police commissioner that officers "did absolutely nothing wrong," though they're also conducting an investigation.

Meanwhile, many on social media urged a Starbucks boycott- we already do - and lamented the state of the union. "This is tired," said one. And: "America, America, this is you."

(Guest columnist Abby Zimet offers her insight daily at the popular Common Dreams… where this perspective was first posted.)