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Black Men Arrested at Philly Starbucks: This Is Not A ‘Black People Thing, It’s A People Thing’

Starbucks to Close All Stores Nationwide for Racial-Bias Education Training on May 29th. Will it work?

Danielle Germain

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Being Black in America: how arriving 10 minutes early to a business meeting puts you in handcuffs.

On April 12, 2018 — Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested at a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia. The two men arrived early for a business meeting, and were waiting for the person they had planned to meet with.

It was reported that Nelson had asked to use the restroom and was told by a manager that they were only for paying customers. Shortly following this brief exchange, the same manager approached both Nelson and Robinson at their table, asked if they wanted to order drinks, and both respectfully declined. According to 911 records, the police were called approximately two minutes after the men entered the store. When police did arrive Robinson thought “they can’t be here for us. We’re doing nothing.” Nelson continued “As soon as they approached us, they just said we have to leave.”

Robinson said they were put in double lock handcuffs, were not read their rights and received no explanation as to why they were being arrested. It was later said that the men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing.

Nelson and Robinson, both appeared on “Good Morning America” following the incident. Nelson said he hoped the incident would inspire black people. He wanted to “take this opportunity as a stepping stone to really stand up and show your greatness and that you are not judged by the color of your skin as our ancestors were or anyone else. He added, “This is not just a black people thing, it’s a people thing.” Nelson continued. “That’s exactly what we want to see out of this, true change.”

The scene was recorded in a video that has been viewed more than 11 million times on Twitter. The arrest has led to protests and plans for bias training at thousands of the chain’s locations. The arrests prompted a #BoycottStarbucks campaign.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the manager of the Philly establishment has left the company. As the company continues to make necessary amends, Starbucks plans to close all of its company owned locations in the U.S., about 8,000 of them, during the afternoon of May 29th to conduct a racial bias education program. Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson apologized for the incident on several media outlets, making it clear that the entire corporation is learning from what was done wrong and taking the steps to fix it. Johnson released an official video, on behalf of Starbucks, making it clear that “The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion; we will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

The training will apply to nearly 175,000 U.S employees and the curriculum will be designed by nationally recognized experts, geared to prevent discrimination in stores. This training will also available for other companies to use.

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Danielle Germain (she/her/hers) is originally from Long Island, New York. She is a rising junior at The American University, majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and minoring in Political Science. She partakes in various activities on campus. Danielle is a Teacher's Assistant, the Vice President of Programming for Caribbean Circle, The Social Media Director and Web Manager for The Blackprint, Programming Coordinator for Founder's Week Committee, Senior Communications Strategist for AUSG Center for Advocacy and Student Equity or CASE, Secretary of the Junior Class Council and a Club Consultant for American University Club Council. After learning more about herself freshman year, Danielle became deeply interested in pushing diversity and inclusion forward. Since then, Danielle has started The Purpose, a bible study for students of color at AU. By creating a safe space on campus, she hopes that the voices of those who feel underrepresented are heard and also valued. In her free time, Danielle enjoys going to brunch and watching Gossip Girl. This past summer, Danielle served as the Corporate Communications Intern for Macy's Inc. Danielle has a passion for politics and a love for writing, and one day hopes to become a political commentator for CNN. She can be reached at dg0060a@student.american.edu.

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