On April 25 two black men were arrested from of a Starbucks. The two men were waiting at the cafe for a meeting when the staff called the police because they were considered trespassing after not ordering anything and trying to use the bathroom.
Starbucks issued a tweet that gave an apology for the arrests as well as promising that they will “… try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores.”
Melissa DePino was a customer at the Starbucks at the time of the arrests and posted a video of it that was filmed by her friend, Michelle, to Twitter. That tweet ignited a national uproar that was expressed with protests and boycotts. This eventually lead to Starbucks announcing that during an afternoon on May 29 they planned to shut down more than 8,000 of their stores for racial bias training.
At that moment at Starbucks DePino decided that she wanted to share that event to create a wide discussion and awareness of racism in America, “This caught my attention and we wanted to continue that conversation with people that are paying attention.” She stated.
Sharing videos or photos of minorities facing injustice has become common in this day and age. For some, this is a requirement for them to believe that discrimination still occurs.
“It’s just really unfortunate that their shame and anger, or whatever they were feeling in that situation, had to be exposed to the world,” said DePino. “That they had to be put in that vulnerable situation for people to pay attention. I mean it’s really awful, and it’s terrible that they have to go through that.”
To Junior Ben Seing, the reasoning for the arrests seemed ridiculous. “The idea that they arrested a couple of men of color just because, from I have heard, were waiting for someone and using the bathroom is ridiculous. Starbucks doesn’t need to change, it’s the employees. The policy did change but I find the issue is within the employees that were working.”
Despite this one Starbucks being extremely hostile towards the two men with the reasoning that they were in the store without making a purchase, there are times where people have done the same as the men without any consequence.
According to Junior Vivian Pham, “There were a few times where I️ sat in there when I️ had to be picked up and nothing really happened.”
Seing has seen situations like Pham’s in the past, “To my knowledge, I’ve seen people wait for their friends or family to come because they are the ones going to buy something. But it was always rush hour and some of the people working didn’t even bother to say anything.”
Starbucks is not only a place for food. It’s also a place where people spend time, without making any purchases. It was not too much of a leap for the those who heard of the incident to think that the arrests didn’t happen due to the breaking of a policy, but instead due to discrimination.
The video of the Starbucks incident circling the internet surprised some of its viewers. Many wondered; How could this happen in Philly?
Seing was one of these viewers. “The one thing that shocked me the most was that it was in Philly. It was to my surprise that there are people who are unaccepting. I expected Philly to be a little bit more supportive than other places.”
For DePino the incident happening in Philly was no surprise. “I think that this happens every day, everywhere. Just because I don’t experience it doesn’t mean that I can’t acknowledge that it happens every day, everywhere. I think that on that day it happened to Philly, it happened to be Starbucks. It could’ve been anywhere.”
DePino continued, “Even that it was Philly, it just goes to show you that it wasn’t Alabama or Mississippi it was Philly! It’s so pervasive, everyday racism, that it’s often the precursor to much worse. It filters into our education system, our criminal justice system, it filters into our house, and all factors of American society.”
For many residents of Philly, these arrests were a wake-up call that this city is capable of producing and housing racism. And for the rest of America, this was a sign that even liberal areas can breed racism. Nobody is free from it.
After sharing the arrests DePino has taken to activism, dedicated to uniting people of color and white people in the fight against racism. She is determined to educate white people on how to respond to racism and racism in the media.
“You saw that Starbucks story in the news and it caught your attention and you understand that that was wrong and if you care about social justice and anti-racism then I would ask you to show up, against that, against racism, and against social injustice.” DePino stated, “There are many ways in which you can show up. You can show up and educate yourself, understanding where your privilege lies by speaking out, by following and reading people of color on your social media, by having conversations with your friends who are people of color, by amplifying the voices of people of color. There are lots of places in that range where you can show up.”
“Whatever you do, helps.”
If you are interested in fighting racism while uniting people of color and white people. Visit DePino and her friend Michelle’s twitter @privtoprog for more info.