Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On African-American Suburbia, PWIs, and Starbucks' Failed #RaceTogether



It’s almost been a week since Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign has crashed and burned...I mean, since CEO Howard Schultz ended it. However, I’m still left with a bad taste in my mouth. No, not from the coffee, I actually quite enjoy the coffee.

I wonder how good it must feel not to fear, to never be concerned.

I contemplate this as #StarbucksEmily, as I'll affectionately call her, hands me my latte and I prepare to ask her a question prompted by Starbucks' failed #racetogether campaign.

#StarbucksEmily is a part of a college (a predominately white institution) town, I mean a middle-class african-american neighborhood, I mean a place they could care less about, because they're only obligated to it for four years. While the sons and daughters of their neighbors are called thugs and hooligans, because of their skin and attire, #StarbucksEmily is just-a-kid.

These just-a-kids piss in bottles and strew them across our manicured lawns, they fornicate in our backyard bushes, and throw loud drug infested parties. Walking home, from anywhere, too late, they are the ones I'm afraid of, with their pale skin and disregard for anyone or anything in their drunken path. There's a strip of college bars all along the campus, the same strip that we buy our groceries on, get our haircuts, and send our children to daycare. The city has regulated that no one can park on the street of the residential neighborhood, after a certain time, to keep the students from disturbing us, but they started buying houses, for their frats and sordid behavior. Now, legally, they can misbehave, right next door. Because of this rule, that they could care less about, now that their parents have bought them driveways, I have to park my car far away from my parent's home. There isn't space for a third car.

I walk my way through groups of excited collegiate scholars. They're tipsy and slurring and I recall the same buzz from my college days at an HBCU. However, there's one sound that isn't the same.

"You b-----s never talk to us! We like niggers too!"

His friends are shocked that he's said this. They grab his shirt and say, "C'mon man! Chill out."

I'm unsure if they're upset at his disgusting behavior or upset that he's actually said it around someone they define as such.

I throw up the middle finger, too tired to deal with his crap. He continues to yell, as I walk further and further.

I walk into my parents home and pull my father, so he could scare them away or put them in their place. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley and so many black men and boys flash through my mind. I let my father's hand go in that minute, because rarely do black men in confrontations with white boys and/or men, especially in heavily patrolled areas, make it out alive.

#StarbucksEmily hands me my latte. She looks nervous and slightly annoyed, I know she doesn't want me asking her a thing, despite her corporate mandate. She knows this is absolute bull, considering she barely makes anything an hour, wasn't trained and isn't equipped to deal with such a thing, and just wants make enough money to get wasted down the block.

I get the argument above, I truly do. But the reality is, #StarbucksEmily will have to converse with us for the rest of her collegiate years. Despite what she thinks, this is our neighborhood. The district schools are filled with all shades of brown, the supermarkets boast ethnic aisles, and the mayor looks like us. #StarbucksEmily will become a "leader" post her college studies, in a diverse world, but has issues interacting with the small community that she now lives in.

I assess her quietly and she reminds me of almost every blonde girl that I've interacted with, on the LIRR. They are completely oblivious to the issues around them and wear their privilege with pride. I ride the train, sitting behind them, watching as they scroll through their mini-feeds. While mine is inundated with the pain that America is in, with the spines that are bending, and the cry of our youth, theirs are silent. A plethora of funny Vines, Pinterest nail art, and Buzzfeed lists, they negate to see what's happening right in their backyard.

It's too bad that I cannot afford to ignore what's happening in mine. Upon hearing the moans, in our backyard, my mother and father turned on the light, and we watched two peach behinds scatter. The next morning we found a phone, where they'd had their excursion. My mother called the contact number titled “MOM.” Mother and daughter, the one who decided to get her freak on behind our house, came to pick up the phone, the next morning. Her mom smiled, apologetically, and said, “Kids will be kids.”
I think of this, while I grab my napkins and sugars. I walk back to the counter and ask #StarbucksEmily about Martese Johnson. I wonder if she’s heard of the incident, considering she’s in college and news about other campuses spread like wildfire. She said she hasn’t heard anything about it.

“Wow, that’s crazy.”

I wanted to engage her, ask her about what the excuse would be now, considering Martese was a well dressed honor student, instead of a media proclaimed “thug.” She looked at the rest of the line, her eyes pleading for someone to step forward and then she couldn’t wait anymore.

“That’s really insane. I hear ya. Next!”

I wonder how good it must feel not to fear, to never be concerned. I want to tell #StarbucksEmily that her four years in college or her corporate mandate will not be the only time she’ll have to #racetogether. This diversification isn’t only just around the fences of her soon to be alma mater. I want to sit her down over cups and foam and break it all down to her, telling her that it’s something she cannot avoid. As I get back to the car, I notice my revolution is dimming. I realize that she and only those like her have a choice. They can choose to ignore it, they can choose to not interact, they can choose to decide that only their world exists.



I sip on the coffee, I enjoy the blended capitalism and PR stunt. I feel guilty, all the way home.


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