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Starbucks Shows us the Role of Poor White Workers in the Great Capitalist Party

"Colored Waiting Room" sign from segregationist era United States. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A lot of White people need to go ahead and admit that they’re okay with a police state, as long as it’s oppressing people who are not like them.

If you can whip up paragraphs upon paragraphs to explain why the police were right to arrest two Black men for waiting for a friend at Starbucks without ordering anything first; if you can wax eloquent about how it is within an establishment’s right to deem patrons who do not purchase an item while waiting for another party to be trespassers, and have the police called on them because it is a bad business model to do otherwise; if you can ignore all the White people who readily admit that they frequently sit at a table or a booth in Starbucks or another similar establishment while waiting for clients, friends, or the weather and order not one thing while they are waiting, but are never asked to leave, let alone escorted out by the police in handcuffs; then you just need to admit that you like the long arm of the law not using any of the full power of discretion that they actually do have when it comes to people who are not like you.

You also need to admit that you like the idea that mediocre, barely-above-poverty-line White people get their rocks off exercising the full power of the title and office of Starbucks Manager, because you think it is perfectly within the realm of reason that a fast food chain store manager has a right to criminalize people who are sitting in the establishment they don’t own — just manage — doing nothing to anyone, bothering no one, causing no trouble, doing nothing “untoward,” except being two Black men waiting for a friend, and deciding not to buy coffee as they wait. Because, I don’t know, maybe they knew the friend wouldn’t be long, and Starbucks was going to get their money for their overpriced hypertension specials soon. But not soon enough for the Mighty White Store Manager!

And if you think this is just a Starbucks thing, think again. All over the country, at any given time, low-level, barely-making-mid-five-figures White employees of corporate establishments small and large regularly use the limited power they have as server, cashier, hostess, or manager to publicly shame and discriminate against Black patrons, and very frequently call the police to help them carry out their discrimination. The most recent and widely-reported examples occurring at an Applebee’s in Missouri, an Old Navy in Iowa, an IHOP in Maine, on a Napa Valley winery tour train, at a Denny’s in Washington… These people are, in effect, the White Blockleiters for the Great Capitalist Party, and they don’t even know their role or that they’re being used by the party they protect.

On the surface, these White people and their actions represent the “soft racism” that Black people experience outside of the larger policy or political discrimination we face in employment, housing, finance, more direct law enforcement, healthcare, and education. This is the kind of discrimination we fear we might encounter at any time we try to relax outside of the everyday grind against White supremacy at work or at school, and go out with our family or friends for a bite to eat, only to have to still confront the racism of poor White people who have no other power but to deny us service or unfairly single us out as troublemakers at a restaurant or public venue. That is tiring, exasperating, infuriating, maddening, belittling, humiliating, emasculating for men, dehumanizing for women, traumatizing for our children, and it is what we live with every single day of our lives — if not the actual experience of racism on some level, it is the expectation that we can and will experience it at some time. At any time. And we are never disappointed.

But on a deeper level, as bad as that knowledge is to live with for Black people, there is more to this issue. You see, the sad aspect of this obscene dynamic (or is it the obscene aspect of this sad dynamic?) is that these poor White people don’t even realize they’re being exploited with their paltry paychecks and anemic benefits package (if they even have them) by the corporations they discriminate against us on behalf of. These corporations don’t care enough about these White people to pay them a living wage, but these White people will go down swinging to protect the company from The Evil Black Patron Who Is Probably Going To Steal A Meal From The Company. That plastic name tag and their position to make a decision about someone else for once in their miserable lives is all they require to defend the Great Capitalist Party (GCP) from Black People Who Must Want To Steal From Them, even though they aren’t even full members of the GCP themselves, and the GCP steals their chance at a decent livelihood every payday. They are happy to carry out the duties of the GCP as Blockleiters — fiercely protecting the GCP from those the Party deems to be threats to its members and their benefits to the point of turning them in to the authorities; but not realizing that they are merely the gatekeepers for the GCP, the doormen, who are allowed limited proximity to the warm glow of the Party, but are really only being thrown scraps from the back of the kitchen in exchange for them watching the front door.

These lowly-paid White employees are the prime example of who stalls racial progress, and of who stalls progress for all working people in this country. And all the White people of all walks of life who can find a reason to defend their actions and those of the police backing them up are prime examples as well, of how too many White people really do like the police state, as long as it is used against Black people to remind us that there is no place in this country where we will ever be accepted on any level in any way by you.

Not even in a d*mned Starbucks waiting for a friend.

Written by Jacqueline Luqman

Jacqueline Luqman is co-editor of Luqman Nation
, an online outlet that provides analysis of domestic and global current events, social issues, history, and politics through a Black, Pan-Africanist, Liberation Theology and Leftist perspective. Jacqueline is a wife to co-Editor Abdusshahid; doggy mommy to Bruskie, and long-time activist against White supremacy, war, and inequality. Along with her love for political and social punditry, Jacqueline can be drawn into heated conversations about good science fiction, bad public policy, and delicious snacks. Follow her on Twitter @luqmannation1.

Jacqueline is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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Starbucks Shows us the Role of Poor White Workers in the Great Capitalist Party