What Cowardice Looks Like: More on the Philly Starbucks Controversy - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
What Cowardice Looks Like: More on the Philly Starbucks Controversy

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.
— T.S. Eliot 

…And the comedy goes on. Behold, dear reader, Rachel Siegel writing Act Two in the Washington Post: “When asked what the company’s policy is about making purchases, a Starbucks spokesperson said: ‘In this particular store, the guidelines were that partners must ask unpaying customers to leave the store, and police were to be called if they refused.’”

Then — in the next paragraph! —we read: “‘In this situation,’ the spokesperson said, ‘the police should never have been called. And we know we have to review the practices and guidelines to help ensure it never happens again.’”

This obvious contradiction Siegel passes over in silence. Well, why not? After all, the real purpose of the globalist Jeff Bezos’ newspaper is to hasten democracy’s death by darkness, there being so much lucre in it.

Although Starbucks has long been a hangout space, before there was an indignant mob disrupting the store and complaining on social media, nobody ever pretended that there was such a thing as “unpaying customers.” The phrase is no more accurate or honest than “undocumented immigrants,” and indeed, it serves the same sort of deceitful purpose.

It is as if we are all customers, whether paying or no. To be is to be a consumer. How wonderfully inclusive!

And yet the game is clear: Starbucks is trying to evade the reality that it is not your adoring grandmother or local community center, but a business, which, as such, cannot afford a policy of accommodating “unpaying customers” — that is, loiterers or trespassers. Greedy, dishonest, and cowardly, Starbucks is unwilling to concede that it expects you to spend at least two bucks on a cup of coffee before you spend the afternoon basking in its sublimely progressive atmosphere.

Predictably, the moneymen at the top of the politically correct food chain saw fit to make a scapegoat of the manager, reportedly a left-wing feminist named Holly. Here, righteous wolves, feed on this wicked flesh; you are so very deserving!

Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Shultz, by way of justifying the firing of a person who would seem rather unlikely to be a racist, told the faithful on Wednesday, “I think you have to say in looking at the tape that she demonstrated her own level of unconscious bias.”

Now it doesn’t take a logician to perceive that unconscious bias, by its very nature, is the easiest and most convenient of explanations. Logically, it is like the non-existence of God in that you cannot disprove it; it’s an assumed negative, so there is quite literally nothing to disprove. Therefore, you can employ unconscious bias to “explain” virtually any phenomena, even though from a logical point of view the concept is akin to the statement: “I think you have to say, in looking at the matter, that Pee-wee Herman is President of Neptune; after all, I cannot prove that he is not.”

We now know more about Holly’s interaction with the two young black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson. Matt Walsh, summing up their own account, given yesterday on Good Morning Americawrites:

They walked into the store, grabbed a table, and then asked to use the restroom. The manager told them that they had to buy something to use it. They declined, and went back to sit at the table without having purchased anything. Now that they had called attention to themselves, the manager was aware of their presence and aware that they were not paying customers. She approached them and offered to get them drinks or anything else they might want. They declined. They were asked to leave and they declined. The police came and asked them to leave and they declined. This is their own version.

That all this took only a few minutes to occur is no reason to believe the men are victims. Likewise, with the fact that they were waiting for a business associate, for nobody has a right to go into a private establishment and decree company policy, as it were. While many people may have no understanding of the matter, having had no experience of it, in a busy Starbucks like that in Rittenhouse Square, it is incumbent upon a manager to maintain order and to promptly get rid of loiterers and trespassers; and like many other managers in Philly and other big cities, doing so has been an ongoing struggle for Holly.

Like the Starbucks “leadership,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a good man with an impossible job, also elected to prepare a face for the faces he shall meet, holding a press conference yesterday at which he apologized to Robinson and Nelson.

Ross apologized, too, for saying that the police did nothing wrong. Of course, when he made that statement last Saturday, Ross was speaking from a legal point of view, for although the law and morality inevitably overlap a great deal, it is the purpose of police to enforce the former.

But since then, alas, Ross has faced overwhelming pressure. Philadelphia Mayor Kenney, who was “heartbroken” by the incident, said, “Starbucks has issued an apology, but that is not enough.” Moreover, the city, said the mayor, would “examine the firm’s policies and procedures.”

Reggie Shuford, Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, linked the incident to stop-and-frisk, about which the protestors had been griping from the beginning (among other irrelevancies): “For seven years, the city has tracked the data on racial disparities in stops and frisks by the police. Despite the fact that these disparities remain, it seems that there is no price to pay for officers who continue to mistreat black Philadelphians.”

Here now is a familiar fallacy. Like feminists who insist that the lack of “gender parity” at Google (or wherever “the patriarchy” reigns) is an obvious evil, in spite of the massive research that, on the whole, women are simply much less interested in engineering (and other highly abstract subjects) than men, Shuford thinks that “racial disparities” in stop-and-frisk represent a prima facie injustice. Of course, it is unthinkable that this disparity might reflect the reality that black people — or more accurately, young black men — commit a vastly disproportionate number of crimes, violent ones in particular. To ideologues like Shuford, that disparity signifies unconscious bias, and so we are back to the article of faith I’ve already described. Nor does logic suffice to reach such persons, because the belief in injustice, like other deep values, is essentially affective in character, that is to say, irrational.

Finally, the arrest was denounced by a variety of “religious leaders” and, it goes without saying, by District Attorney Larry Krasner, the most liberal DA in the country.

Little wonder, then, that yesterday Police Commissioner Richard Ross would choose to change his story. And indeed, his breathless transition to talk about “stop and frisk” — coming early in the press conference and a non sequitur, in context — betrays what is really behind Ross’ new tune: He must go along with Starbucks, Mayor Kenney, and other city officials. They must all mitigate ressentiment and be “good guys.”

For the truth is that in Philadelphia, when blacks are upset people are quick to conform. For instance, it recently came out, thanks to the usual leftist witch hunters, that last September UPenn Law Professor Amy Wax, looking back on her time at the university, said that she didn’t think that she had ever seen a black law student graduate in the top quarter of his class, and rarely in the top half. The context was Wax’s discussion with Brown University economist Glenn Loury (a black man) on how affirmative action ironically serves to harm black students: a truth which Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and other black scholars have been stressing for decades.

Yes-man, or rather, Dean Ted Ruger pretended to refute Wax, while actually doing nothing of the kind. Once he learned of Wax’s comment, Asa Khalif — who is the leader of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania and the man in this photo talking at a Starbucks employee via a blowhorn — threatened to disrupt the Penn campus unless Wax was punished. Spineless as a jellyfish, Ruger readily capitulated, announcing that Wax would no longer teach mandatory first-year law courses. Still more, the odious fraud even had the audacity to assert that Wax had demonstrated “conscious indifference to truth.”

About five years ago, Robert Huber, a widely respected local writer, dared to address an unspeakable topic in Philadelphia Magazine: “Being White in Philly.” The subject was Huber’s fear for his young son, a white freshman student at Temple University. Like all Philadelphians, Huber knows that neighborhoods like Temple’s north Philly, Germantown, and southwest Philly, are dangerous places, and not because of old Jewish ladies. Such fear, for Huber, is one of those things that never gets said. So, the writer interviewed a number of white Philadelphians who, unsurprisingly, voiced fears of their own. A well-meaning liberal, Huber was emphatic that he wanted to help improve race relations in the City of Brotherly Love. Expressing the usual white guilt about “the legacy of slavery,” he hoped that if whites and blacks could understand one another better, they might get along better, too.

Basically, it was the standard naïve liberal fantasy of a world in which, through “better communication,” we can all fare a lot better. And there was, needless to say, the standard reflexive backlash to anything critical of black people. Finally, there was the standard liberal moral smugness, Mayor Nutter and other “city leaders” condemning Huber as a racist in the form of a public harangue.

“Nelson and Robinson,” NBC News reports, are

looking for more lasting results and are in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes, including the posting in stores of a customer bill of rights; the adoption of new policies regarding customer ejections, racial profiling and racial discrimination; and independent investigations of complaints of profiling or discrimination from customers and employees.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Patricia Madej writes that

Members of POWER, an interfaith group… met with [Starbucks CEO Kevin] Johnson and Schultz after helping to lead Monday’s protest…. POWER has sent a list of demands to the company as well as to Krasner. The demands to Starbucks include paying employees $15 an hour and playing a larger role in its communities.

And now we perceive that this incident is not just a comedy, but a tragicomedy. Having chosen a greedy coward’s path — refusing to teach the young men a basic lesson about respect for order and authority, and disingenuously pretending that it is not a business but some kind of charity — Starbucks has created a monster. Ah, much good may it do ’em!

What white liberals and leftists don’t realize is that the more they yield, the more insidious resentment they breed. For in this world, needless guilt and excessive generosity are typically rewarded with insolence and exploitation (in effect, if not in intention). This is, indeed, a very dangerous game to play.

To be sure, not everyone driving this folly is a bad person. Many are decent and well-intended. Yet, having superficial perceptions, and either little or no knack for clear and subtle thought, they are nonetheless likely to cause a lot of trouble.

So this situation — alas, so representative of race in our moment — does not look good. At least, however, we can be amused. We may reasonably believe, for example, that Starbucks will devise “a customer bill of rights,” for when has the company been willing to draw a line so far? Of what shall those rights consist? Recall: we are all customers, whether we purchase something or not. Has, then, a homeless man a right to camp out all day while clipping his toe nails and picking his nose? By Starbucks’ singularly absurd lights, the only answer can be a resounding yes.

Christopher DeGroot is a columnist at Taki’s Magazine and a contributing editor of New English Review. You can follow him at @CEGrotius.

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