How the Arrests at Starbucks Impact Writers of All Colors





I’m not a protestor. I don’t really participate in boycotts. I don’t even like to post about hot-button issues on social media. But I went against my normal protocol this morning and tweeted this.

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 11.32.03 AM

That statement isn’t a big deal. It’s not vulgar or loaded with anything provocative. It’s more of a self-observation. To a fault, it’s pretty safe and doesn’t cast judgment on any parties involved.

This blog, however, seems like the perfect place to explore my thoughts, right or wrong, for better or worse. And I’m not limited to 280 characters.

When I go into a coffee shop, I purchase something 99.9% of the time. That’s because I’m using one of their seats, and maybe even their restroom.

While at my table, I don’t throw out the cup or wrapper until I leave, even if it’s been sitting on the table for 3 hours. Even if it’s taking up my table space or attracting flies. I want to make sure the employees know that I have purchased something for the time in their seat.

I don’t know if I do this because I’m black—sometimes these things are too ingrained to tell. It’s possible that non-blacks may adhere to the same protocol as me, from a patron-etiquette perspective. I’d be curious to know.

I can’t help but think that unconscious bias was at play during the Starbucks incident. If so, that validates why I need to keep my protocol in place. And I need to do it 100% of the time, as opposed to 99.9%.

But let’s say the Starbucks incident didn’t occur because of any unconscious bias. Let’s say it happened because there was an expectation placed on an individual who wanted to use the restroom. An expectation that you should buy a product. Otherwise: No coffee, no bathroom. Well, what about the expectation of a person who wants to use a table?

Ah, the net of concern is cast much wider now.

Because writers—as I mentioned in my tweet—spend a lot of time at coffee shops. That means writers are using Starbucks’ restrooms and their seats. So I can’t help but wonder if this incident will impact the way writers, regardless of color, will behave at Starbucks?

Will it change the way you’ll do things when you arrive at a Starbucks?

Buy coffee or tea first. Scope out empty table later.

Will you worry about how long you’re at a coffee shop before you order something?

Scenario: You walk in and see a long line at the register. You also see that there’s only 1 empty table available. You may normally snag the table and wait for the line to go down before buying your croissant. But would you still do that?

Will you no longer use a seat or table without paying for a beverage?

When a person patronizes the same cafe a few times a month, occassionally one may think, “It’s okay not to buy something this time.” Does that now give you pause?

Will you not use their restroom?

Have the arrests at Starbucks taught you that you’d rather hold your water than feel forced to buy one at the counter?

Are you thinking about patronizing non-Starbucks coffee shops?

My guess is that there are other cafes in your city or town that aren’t Starbucks. Are you so upset at Starbucks, that you’re thinking of boycotting them?

Will you go the non-profit route? 

I go to libraries to write, where there’s no pressure or expectation to buy any products. I also won’t be turned away for using their bathroom or seats. The drawback, of course, is that there’s no tea available.


Have the arrests at Starbucks impacted your way of thinking or how you’ll conduct yourself at Starbucks?

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash and Denisse Leon on Unsplash


Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

2 thoughts on “How the Arrests at Starbucks Impact Writers of All Colors

  1. Responding to Starbucks situation: I’m putting on hold my $30 or more a week visits to Starbucks until I’m satisfied with how they will address this issue. How an African American should behave when in the presence of police, the proper behavior of African Americans in a Starbucks, the proper behavior of African Americans……. whatever!!
    I feel like I should be walking around with some kind of behavior manual!!!
    This is crazy!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is crazy, sad, disturbing, etc. It will be interesting to see how the company will address things. They seem ready to take action and make changes, which is a good start. Let’s see what actually happens.


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