The arrest of two black male patrons at a Center City Starbucks that touched off national protests represents a clear-cut instance of racial profiling, Professor Donald Tibbs said in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 16.
A video taken of the April 12 arrest by another café patron went viral, sparking widespread protests, an apology from the Starbucks CEO and a pledge to shut down the chain for a day of employee training about diversity issues. Police handcuffed and arrested the men after a clerk complained that they were trespassing while they waited for a friend to arrive.
The location where the arrests occurred – the affluent, predominantly white Rittenhouse Square neighborhood – contributed to the incident, Tibbs said.
“The gentlemen who were handcuffed don’t fit that demographic,” Tibbs said. “They are black, they are male, the way they are dressed.”
Demographics drove the incident, Tibbs said.
“People meet at the Starbucks all the time. They wait for other people to arrive. In that moment, they make a purchase. I have done that on numerous occasions. I’ve been given the key to use the bathroom while I am waiting,” Tibbs said.
Contending company CEO Kevin Johnson acted “admirably” by flying from Seattle to Philadelphia to apologize personally to the men, Tibbs noted that he had not initially blamed his own staff.
Staff need training to understand how implicit bias and white privilege operate, Tibbs added.