Corey B. King
6 min readApr 18, 2018

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Starbucks, and Why Amerikkka Can’t Have Nice Things

When discussing race in Amerikkka, despite education, age, or pedigree, everyone all of a sudden becomes deaf, dumb, mute, and intellectually obtuse.

Unless you live under a rock or are too privileged to care, you have probably heard that racism reared its ugly head recently in a Starbucks in Philadelphia due to a white manager by the name of Holly Hylton. On last Thursday, two African American male real estate brokers (what they do for a profession is a irrelevant, but white people, and some blacks, only see humanity, based upon an individual’s profession or net worth), were waiting for a potential client, who happened to be a Caucasian male, for a business meeting when they were asked to leave the establishment by the manager. Now depending upon who’s telling the story, some say they told her they were waiting for a meeting, some say she told them to order or leave, but what is not debatable by several eyewitnesses on the scene, the two men were not a threat, were not doing anything wrong, and a 911 call was an overreach by the racist manager.

When the 911 call was answered by Philly police, six officers responded, and the two men were taken into custody, where they were held for nine hours, without being charged, without access to counsel, and without understanding, why they were arrested in the first place…sounds ludicrous right? If you are white yes, if you are black, it’s just another day in Amerikkka.

Now of course, Starbucks sent out three lame written statements, the CEO has met with the two aggrieved parties, and given a grandstanding Good Morning America interview, and closed 8,000 U.S. Starbucks locations on May 29th for diversity, and racial bias training. Philly residents are boycotting, and there has been a national outcry, particularly in the African American community for a national boycott of Starbucks facilities.

But let’s examine the initial call! It starts with Holly Hilton and fragile white feelings. I have been frequenting Starbucks facilities since 2007. I discovered them during my first visit to Los Angeles, and immediately fell in love with their strawberry creme frappes. Once taste of that particular drink, and I was hooked and never ordered anything else. Usually, as a complimentary snack with my drink, I would always order a slice of the lemon pound cake or a brownie. Depending upon which location I patronized, my order total would range somewhere between $7.90 and $9.00(I should have known then, Starbucks was on some bullshit). But even more than the prices, I noticed something else. There were very few African Americans, Starbucks were usually in middle class or affluent areas, and there were plenty Caucasians, which told me their restaurants probably were not intended for us (those of a darker hue) in the first damn place! I also noticed that the majority of the individuals there, either ordered something light, or not at all; yet, would be there for several hours. Sometimes, individuals would conduct business meetings, authors would use Starbucks as their “workspace”, and/or just to simply chat with friends, and staying longer after their snacks had been devoured. Occasionally, a homeless person would enter, but as long as they weren’t panhandling, the manager or baristas never paid them any attention…why? Because they were busy working, because most Starbucks locations are consistently busy. So what made the two African American gentleman stand out to Holly? They were the only two darkies in that Starbucks. In a closer viewing of the video, the rest of the patrons were white, so in Holly’s mind, two African American men were threatening to these white people, and she had to remove them. It wasn’t about them not ordering, not about them causing trouble or the potential to do so, she simply had two African Americans too many in her private space.

When the police arrived, there were six of them. Six police, armed with night sticks, guns, tasers, and mace to deal with two unarmed “suspects” (every African American is a suspect when a white person calls the police on you). I know in a city as crime ridden as Philly, police presence is so desperately needed in other areas, but we must serve and protect (insert eyeroll)! Now the video doesn’t show what happened to place the men in handcuffs, in fact, it starts as they are being arrested, but every white patron (except the manager) affirms, that the men hadn’t done anything wrong. Their client, the white male, even showed up during the arrest, inquiring why they were being arrested, and still six of Philly’s finest proceeded with the arrest.

But the most infuriating part of this is not the initial 911 call, nor the arrest! The infuriating part is that people see the video, hear eyewitness statements from white people (because you know nothing is ever racism until white people place their stamp of approval on it); yet, there is still a debate, and this is where the intellectual gymnastics takes place. You have those white people who believe that the two men had to have done something; yet, every white eyewitness in the Starbucks says otherwise. You have black people, who are so consumed with white acceptance, that they are even questioning things; yet, evidence proves otherwise. The Starbucks manager, Holly, was wrong! The Philly cops were wrong! End of story! There isn’t more to it!

We have weaponized black bodies for so long; we have given into the scary black person trope for so long, that even with video, we tell our eyes and ears, they are liars, and we believe preconceived ideas.

I recently had a situation at my part time job where I had a verbal altercation with someone. Nothing serious, because even the individuals who were closest to us, couldn’t tell you a word of what was said, but one of the supervisors in charge at the time, said she felt “uncomfortable”, which is code for Corey was becoming the “scary, angry black man, and I felt triggered”. I have been in two fist fights my whole life, both in elementary school; I’m 150lbs, 5'9" soaking wet; I’m not scary to anyone but toddlers! And if you saw the white people who I work with, they are some of the most progressive, Liberal leaning people on the planet (or at least to hear them tell it), but every now and again, if a black person speaks too loudly, acts too passionately, or doesn’t play along to get along (meaning I can say racist shit, and I expect you to laugh or ignore it), we are all of a sudden, a threat.

When we were first brought to this country as African Americans, we were slaves. When we couldn’t be enslaved anymore, they started lynching us. When that became too barbaric for their tastes, they started water hosing and unleashing dogs on us. When that was no longer a viable option, they started imprisoning us. When that didn’t work as favorably as they wanted, the police became the pimps pedaling either death or prison, and sometimes both. It’s a never ending cycle! It tears your spirit up each day, as an African American, leaving home each day, not knowing if you are going to encounter the wrong cop, the wrong fragile white person who will call the cop, the wrong supervisor who is triggered by your raised voice, or the wrong co-worker who says some completely racist shit, that you either have to ignore to keep your job, or take a chance and report it, and being labeled as “difficult” or not a “team player” Either way you are professionally screwed, and this makes it hard for other black people, because we are all alike (insert eyeroll).

Starbucks is a symptom of a long standing racial disease. Education and diversity training don’t fix it. Marrying other races and having bi-racial children do not fix it, having a certain number of friends of different ethnic groups doesn’t fix it. What’s the solution? When incidents like these occur, calling a spade a spade. To have real, honest conversations about race, you will have to be uncomfortable, somebody is going to be mad, someone’s feelings are going to be hurt, but as I often say, my life matters much more than your fragile feelings.

But you also have to care, which is impossible because most humans are devoid of empathy. We want comfort, and Starbucks provides that caffeinated comfort, so the world keeps spinning, and nothing ever changes!

To Starbucks, keep your overpriced, subpar drinks, and I will keep my coins in my pocket, and not another one will you receive. The only thing to do, is to run those young men a minimum of $10 million dollars (one million for each hour they spent unlawfully detained, and another million for the embarrassment, pain, and suffering of it all. This will be better than any lame pc public statements, any one day “bias” training, and will be reparations for every African American disrespected and dehumanized in your establishment, as this is not an isolated incident, and unless you permanently close your doors now, it will not be the last!

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Corey B. King

Writer, Professor. Published my second book, I Have Some Shit to Say, memoir/essay collection in 2018! You can find me on Twitter at @coreybking