A video of two black men being arrested by the Philadelphia police at a Starbucks went viral over the weekend, prompting outrage, protests and a detailed apology from the CEO.
The men, who had been sitting quietly in the store when they were arrested, were waiting for their friend to arrive before they ordered. It’s a common enough practice for a chain that has sought for years to be the best third place in our lives; a welcoming spot, neither home nor work, where people might spend hours reading, chatting or typing out a novel while simply being near other humans.
But some humans are more frightening than others. A store manager had called the police. They opted not to de-escalate.
The incident was reprehensible, said Johnson. In his apology, he explained the company’s “plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”
The video of the arrest, shot by fellow customer Melissa DePino, captured the resigned humiliation of the men and the laudable protestations of their white friend.
“People ignore this kind of stuff. They don’t believe that it happens. People are saying that there must be more to this story. There is not,” DePino told Philadelphia magazine. “This would never happen to someone who looks like me. People don’t believe black people when they say this stuff happens. It does. They want to know the extenuating circumstances. There are none.”
Fourteen-year-old Brennan Walker knows this all too well.
Last Thursday, the Rochester Hills, Mich. teen missed his bus and began to walk to school. After he got lost in a tony subdivision, he rang a doorbell of a home looking for directions. A woman answered the door and panicked, believing Walker was an intruder. “Why did ‘these people’ choose my house?” their digital security system recorded her saying. Her husband grabbed a shotgun and fired off a shot as Walker ran. He was hiding and crying when the police found him.
When white people see black faces, they often see danger. The flip side: When black people need help, they often become invisible.
Consider the tragic case of fifteen-year-old Devonte Hart and his five adopted siblings, all black. On March 26, Hart family’s SUV plunged off a cliff along the California coast, presumably killing all on board. The car was driven by one of his mothers and the investigators now believe it was intentional.
Hart became a symbol of racial reconciliation when a photo of him crying and hugging a white police officer during a Ferguson-related police brutality protest in Portland, Ore. went viral. “Free hugs,” his sign said.
But he needed help, not clicks. Adoptive mothers Jennifer and Sarah Hart, who were white, had first been reported to Oregon child welfare authorities five years ago and had been visited again just days before the crash. The home-schooled children often appeared bruised, and regularly asked neighbors to intervene; one twelve-year-old child looked half her age. In the month before he died, Devonte had begged neighbors for food.
We saw Devonte’s black face when we thought it reflected the myth of racial progress, not his pain.
But it’s the start of a new week and we all have work to do.
The woman who reported the Hart family to the authorities five years ago is now pushing for the creation of a national child abuse registry. “How is it in this great country of ours, two mothers with a history of reported child abuse in three states, disclosed by at least six adults, over a ten-year span still have custody of six children?” asks Alexandra Argyropoulos.
Today, Brennan Walker is alive and in school, abetted by the miracle that the police believed his account and the man who shot at him, retired firefighter Jeffery Zeigler, left the safety on his weapon. But Zeigler, 53, is having a tough day: He was arraigned on Friday on “assault with intent to murder and felony firearm” charges and is due in court on April 24.
And the coffee chieftain is already making things happen — the two men who were arrested have agreed to meet with him. But undoing hundreds of years of raced-based fear is going to take awhile.
But you’ve got your own Monday to deal with, and you may be (or be working with) a person who is trying to process all this news while leaning in, stressing out, and getting their own stuff done.
My advice? Ask people how they’re doing and listen. Share what’s on your mind. And skip any praise of Taylor Swift’s latest cover song. I get it, it’s not like she took a pan flute and banged out a down-home version of Fight the Power, but fear of a black planet is running high today. Stay close to Beyonce. She’s the Queen for a reason.
|A new HBO show takes on policing in America and it is excellent|
|Comedian and Daily Show veteran Wyatt Cenac is the host of a new HBO show called Problem Areas, a late night-style talkfest devoted to the subject of policing and culture change. “A man got shot in Crown Heights yesterday, and these stories keep happening,” he tells Wired. “There’s more we can do as a community to try to change what policing looks like in our cities.” The opening monologue is signature Cenac — right off the bat, Elon Musk gets skewered for trying to white-colonize space, for example — but the ten-episode season breaks from the late-night comedy tradition in some interesting ways. There are outstanding expert guests but no studio audience and Cenac plays it mostly straight for his field interviews. But the strength of the show is its in-depth reporting – the first episode will help you to understand the Philando Castille shooting in a new way, I promise. Cenac is joined by a slew of executive producers, including Hallie Haglund, Ezra Edelman (director of O.J.: Made in America) and John Oliver.|
|Tesla employee alleges racial discrimination; was pressured to stay silent|
|The workplace issues coming from Tesla continue to dog the company, most recently are allegations that the company under-counted worker injuries to fudge its safety record. But this one isn’t going away; one former employee has been claiming that the company aggressively tried to keep him quiet about his harassment at the company. DeWitt Lambert, a black electrician hired in production, claims he was subject to months of abuse, consisting of threats and racial epithets including the N-word.|
|What Isle of Dogs gets right about Japan|
|Writer Moeko Fujii addresses the critiques of Wes Anderson’s new animated film, “Isle of Dogs,” right away: It has a white savior narrative, it “Orientalizes” by making Japanese people stereotypically inscrutable, and it engaged in some familiar cultural appropriation. But after viewing the film, she has a slightly different take. “His commitment to showing the daily rhythms of a living, breathing Japanese people reveals itself not only in his cast of twenty-three Japanese actors,” she writes, but a slew of tiny references that only Japanese people would appreciate. For this, it rises above the critiques for its artistic choices. “The film invites a kinship with a viewer who will find these banalities familiar, and lets these moments flow by, unnoticed, for those who do not,” she says. Spoilers ahead, but only for Japanese people.|
The Woke Leader
|Learn more about the HBCU tribute embedded in #Beychella|
|Beyonce’s performance at Coachella – which everyone should be talking about – was filled with extraordinary, and extraordinarily black, motifs, including a powerful and direct reference to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (The resplendent marching band and stepping were two big clues.) To understand the reference in greater depth, I recommend Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities, a 90-minute documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. The film puts the 150-year HBCU history into important context; how the campuses have provided emotional havens for black students from Reconstruction and Jim Crow to this day while nurturing excellence in intellect, art, and science. (Prime members can find the stream on Amazon.)|
|HBCU Rising film|
|Reclaiming the term “redneck”|
|The original term was an inclusive one, and it dates back to 1921 when black and white coal miners in West Virginia rose up against exploitative mine owners and protested brutal and unsafe working conditions. Their march was precipitated by a series of strikes and turned into an actual war, becoming one of the bloodiest labor conflicts in U.S. history. Mine operators had long sown racial discord by breaking strikes by importing lower-paid black miners, but the United Mine Workers union fought against segregation and for pay equity. During the protests, the miners faced a paid army of mercenaries, including private planes who dropped bombs on the workers. Miners wore red bandanas around their necks to identify each other while fighting.|
|Schoolgirls in the 1800s had to embroider their own maps and globes out of silk to study geography|
|The globes, along with stitched map samplers, were a radical act of gender-parity in education and did the double duty of being beautiful. The practice started in schools in England and was transported to America from the late 18th century to the mid-1840s. In some cases, the cover story was needlework lessons, but in most cases, the true point of the classes was the science itself, the first STEM subject open to girls and women. It marked a shift in educational theory – that women’s education should no longer be strictly limited to developing social polish and “accomplishments.” Here is some background on the curriculum developed by a Quaker school in Pennsylvania (1799), and more information on the embroidered globes and maps here.|