Ungrateful White America

By Beverly Gadson-Birch  

Every day in these not so “United States of America” is a struggle for Black folk.  This is worth repeating, I said “everyday” is a struggle for Black folk. Before the sun rises, folks are scheming on what they are going to do and how they are going to keep black folk in their “place”, wherever that might be.  And before the sun sets, White America has overtly discriminated against and overcharged those whose labor made her great. In other words, she bites the hands that feeds her.

My granny often referred to someone as that ole “ingrate” when someone did not appreciate something she had done for them. In my child’s mind, I wondered whether that really was a word.  As an adult, I know not only is it a word but it’s a person—an ungrateful person.

America’s riches were amassed through slave labor.  I am talking like twenty-five and fifty cents an hour wages.  Blacks in the south worked in hot, snake infested cotton, rice and tobacco fields.  Add to that, the carpenters and brick masons that hauled heavy bricks and stones on their backs to build some of this nation’s greatest edifices, including the White House, where discriminatory laws are made.

 So why are Blacks still being picked out to be picked on?  This brings me to the incident at Starbucks in Philadelphia. One would think that as much money as Blacks spend in these mega establishments, they would be treated with some sort of respect.

Oh no, that would be asking too much!  The only thing corporate America cares about is their bottom line, PROFIT.  Therein lies the problem. Businesses beware!! The same folks that help you ascend to the top can just as easily cause your downfall.

I am not a coffee person; so, Starbucks is low on my radar.  However, being a business person, I have met a time or two at Starbucks to discuss business over a cup of tea. Every time, there would be people with folders, laptops and briefcases discussing business.  I am sure the atmosphere is the same at most Starbucks locations. So why were two black male Philadelphians singled out?

The reason given was they asked to use the restroom without buying anything.  Give me a break!!  The last time I checked, Starbucks is a public not private business.  There is no membership fee. According to information obtained from Starbucks’ site, they went public on June 26, 1992.  If this is factual, how can these men be arrested for trespassing?  Take a look at their mission statement, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”  And check this out on their site under ‘Our Stores’- “Our stores are a neighborhood gathering place for meeting friends and family.  Our customers enjoy quality service, an inviting atmosphere and an exceptional beverage.”  So, you tell me, why were those men singled out when they were at Starbucks to meet a business friend?  They did no wrong.

Starbucks and other public business should screen employees carefully and make sure they are schooled on their mission as well as equitable business practices. While the Starbucks CEO has issued an apology to the men, Black Police Commissioner Richard Ross supports the arresting officers. He said, “they did absolutely nothing wrong; they followed policy.”  So, what does following policy mean? Did they follow policy as it relates to Blacks? What about using common sense?

 The first mistake was made by the employee.  The employee said the men asked to use the restroom without making a purchase and when asked to leave, they refused to do so.  They were well within their rights. They were not argumentative.  They did not present a problem. The second mistake was made by the police. After they arrived, and the men’s statement was corroborated by the person they had been waiting for, that should have been the end to that.   They should not have been led out in handcuffs as if they were criminals.  How many times have you waited in a restaurant before ordering?  I have done the same thing on many occasions. What happened in Philadelphia is not the exception but oftentimes the rule when it comes to blacks.

On several occasions while traveling, I went in to use the restroom and was told they did not have a public restroom. What ‘da heck you mean you don’t have a public restroom? You are accepting public money and you don’t have a public restroom?

My sister will not let me forget the time we were traveling to New Jersey and we stopped to a little country store.  We were going to use the restroom and then purchase some goodies before traveling on.  I asked to use the restroom.  The employee said they did not have a restroom. Well y’all know he had the wrong person and the wrong day.  My response was, “where do you do go?”  By this time, my sister is dragging me out of the store.

My response was fair. I don’t spend money where I am not treated fairly.  And don’t give me a key and send me around the back to the restroom.  I don’t do that either.  You accepted my money inside and I am using the restroom inside.  If not, I will take my business elsewhere. I went around the back too many times at granny’s “outhouse”.  I didn’t have a choice then; but I have one now. My skin color has nothing to do with your perceptions of who you think I am just like your whiteness has nothing to do with my perceptions of who I think you are.

The problem with White America is you are enjoying the fruits of my ancestors’ labor and if you think you are going to treat me “any kind of way”, I concur with granny, you are such an “ingrate”.

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