Monday, April 16, 2018

The Root of the Problem

Most have heard about the two men arrested for calmly sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.  Calling the police on people sitting in your establishment - an establishment that has tables, chairs, and wi-fi, aka an establishment you have clearly designed to encourage folks to linger in is incorrect.  
I also think the policies that we've put into place where police are required to respond to all calls, so that nothing slips through the cracks, and that police officers seem encouraged to use discretion only when it turns out there are white people causing problems, is wrong.  
I do not think this is a problem that is created by the policies of any given coffee shop.  I think this is a huge societal problem, it is the same thing that leads store security to more closely examine shoppers of color, it is the same thing that leads to folks of color being harassed or arrested for lingering near an ATM, it is the same thing that leads to policies like stop and frisk.  So, yes, I think this is a problem.  Yes, I hope Starbucks issues better guidelines to store managers about handling customers.  And yes, I think we need to stop calling the police every time anyone does anything that seems inconvenient. 
One of the things that this study from last year found looking at things like stop-and-frisk is that the "out of place" mentality, ie, I assumed that those black people lingering by the ATM were planning to rob the bank, not trying to use the ATM, or otherwise exhibiting customer behavior because I assume black people don't bank in this neighborhood.  Or I assume these people are planning to cause trouble and not waiting to meet a friend in this coffee shop because they are black.  This doesn't ever happen in reverse.  You don't have situations where white people are the minority and they get arrested or hassled for lingering by the ATM or sitting in a coffee shop too long, even though we all know there are parts of cities where white people are less common.  So, this idea of the out of place policing, it only ever gets used against black and brown citizens.  It has no basis in fact or statistics, it does nothing to make anyone safer, and at that point you have to conclude, it's just another excuse to support white supremacy. So, yes, think hard before you call the police. The white supremacy involved in these policies is a feature and not a bug.