Apr 30, 2018
Two 23-year-old black men went into a Philadelphia Starbucks and sat down to wait for a business associate. One of the men asked to use the rest room and was told he could not. Then they were arrested.
Anyone who has watched the video can see the crazily disproportionate, armed response to two people who clearly pose no threat. The two men calmly answer the cops’ questions – yet the police bring in backup, and the men are led away in handcuffs, minutes after they arrived at the Starbucks. They were accused of “trespassing,” though Starbucks is a public place, famous for being one of the only public spots left where people can sit and talk.
Starbucks has apologized, instituted “racial sensitivity training” for its workers, and it has moved the manager who called the cops. But this problem goes way beyond Starbucks.
Like many cities in this country, Philadelphia has a large black population – but there are some areas of the city where black people are treated as if they are not welcome.
The Starbucks in question was in Rittenhouse Square, one of Philadelphia’s richest neighborhoods. On VisitPhilly.com, Rittenhouse Square is listed as “the heart of Center City’s most expensive and exclusive neighborhood.” And, here exclusive means ... predominantly white. While 43 percent of the people who live in Philadelphia are black, they make up only 3 percent of the residents of Rittenhouse Square.
Yet despite the small number of black people who live there, according to the ACLU, 67 percent of the people stopped by the police in that neighborhood since 2011 were black!
Almost every city in this country has a Rittenhouse Square. Segregation might not be the law any more – but it is alive and well, and enforced by the police throughout this country.