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Starbucks Coffee Shop Racism: Is That Who We Are?

Last week's arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks who were simply there waiting for a business associate still the norm in America? Is that who we are?

As this Washington Post article points out, the scene of those two men being led out of Starbucks in handcuffs, essentially just because they are black, "delivered an uncomfortable reminder of the country’s racial disparities."

The incident, the article says, "illustrates a pervasive bias that can affect even the most mundane activities in U.S. public spaces — in this case, meeting someone for a coffee."

Now, Starbucks is faced with a massive public relations problem because of this incident. It's stock has been taking a significant hit, and now the company is planning to close all of its stores for part of a day in May to provide barristers with training on how to recognize their racial biases.

The Starbucks incident is not alone, however, in unfair treatment of minorities simply because they are minorities. Also, this past week, a New Jersey fitness club essentially did the same thing, even though one black patron was a member and his friend was there on a guest pass. It just continues with incident after incident, ranging from police shootings of unarmed individuals to incidents like Starbucks.

When Barack Obama was elected president, I hoped that marked a turning point in our nation; that perhaps the racial divide was actually diminishing and that we were coming together as a people.

Wishful thinking.

Instead, his election, actually worsened the latent racism that still existed, whipped up by his Republican opponents, helping to elect Donald Trump, who pandered to worst attitudes and even latent hatred held secretly or otherwise by all too many white Americans.

It was no accident that since Trump's election, the situation has worsened, as indicated in this survey by the Pew Research Center, which shows that 60 percent of Americans feel that way.

Clearly, this Philadelphia Starbucks incident is simply indicative of the problem. As Bennie Swans, a black South Carolina community activist friend likes to say, "We need to address the elephant in the room if we are going to solve these problems."

What Swans, who for two years chaired the Horry County Democratic Party, means is that blacks and whites each must recognize and acknowledge that racial prejudices still exist and then seek to find solutions together.

It seems like we have a long way to go.

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