Racism is not a Starbucks problem. It is America’s

SHARE Racism is not a Starbucks problem. It is America’s

Protesters organized by the interfaith group POWER march up Eighth Street toward Market Street, headed toward Philadelphia City Hall, Thursday, while rallying against the decision of police officers to arrest two black men at a Center City Starbucks last week. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

No, I will not boycott Starbucks. Racism is not a Starbucks problem. It is America’s. My tall cup of deep dark “bold” in the morning never called me “N—–.”

I see no “For Whites Only” signs inside Starbucks’ universally welcoming doors. My people never had to stage sit-ins to gain access to sip at Starbucks’ counter. Never called NFL players S.O.B.s.

Starbucks never slayed our leaders. Never castrated our fathers and brothers. Never raped our daughters and mothers.


When will America come clean?

Was it Starbucks that killed Dr. King?

The white-and-green Starbucks siren has never glared at me with emboldened eyes of hate. Never conspired to seal my fate. Never strung us by noose from poplar trees. Never burned our bodies, causing the scent of strange fruit to drift on a cool morning breeze.

Not Starbucks. But ’tis of thee I sing: America.

America that chained me. America that oppressed me. That dispossessed me. America that blames me. America that shames me.

America — sweet land of the free, bitter home to the African slave. America whose systemic hate of the color of our skin seeks daily — unrelenting! — to dig our graves.

Oh America, we hear you: “Shut up and dribble.”

And still we rise. To America’s surprise. Like a bird fluttering toward blue royal skies–above her stereotypes, evil aspersions and lies. Though not without a thousand tears falling from our eyes. Not without this unyielding angst and agony of living while black in America that sometimes makes grown black men, like me, cry.

But as I ingest the recent arrest of two African-American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks for SWB (sitting while black), I have no tears — too many shed through years. Instead I am coldly numb. My senses bludgeoned by pain, strain. By a lifetime of assorted slights, indignities and innuendo or blatant racial hate. My impassiveness has become my escape from the steady flow of insidious attitudes and acts we daily combat.

Sometimes I consciously dim the senses, like turning down the lights. Because “all my life I had to fight” this fight that never ends. That assails the American species of males in black skin.

Our dear sisters are not immune. But we are well aware as brothers that “we” are America’s “c–n.” America’s most hated and America’s most loved. America’s Most Wanted and America’s most hunted.

America’s threat for as long as we still breathe. Our sons inheritors of this broken American dream, where justice is a dried-up crooked brook and righteousness just a teasing trickle, not a stream. Where life for the American Negro, though in some ways improved, is still, for the masses, but a complicated scheme.

And Starbucks is too easy a scapegoat for America’s original sin — committed unceasingly for centuries by unrepentant men. Still, “boycott” blows in the wind …

But I will not. For it is not Starbucks. Not the Michigan Avenue restaurant or the bar at a prominent downtown Chicago hotel, where I have waited in vain for service. It is not the department stores where I am followed like a criminal that unsettles my nerves.

Not the racist white cop alone. Neither the choking, beating, brutalizing nor the shooting of unarmed black men and boys — and also our sisters — that makes me groan. But the knowledge that living, breathing, walking, driving, talking and even sitting while black in America is our sin alone.

That racially profiling black men is as American as Starbucks and apple pie. And that America is largely deaf to our cries.

Between sips of my tall bold coffee, I take this in numbly, with no tears in my eyes.

Email: Author@Johnwfountain.com

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