Friday, April 20, 2018

The Starbucks Moment

I often wonder what living in the Deep South would be like and I know it must be worse.  Actually I could go a couple hours south of Nashville to Memphis and find out. I suspect it would confirm my worst fears so I just count down the days to when I can leave.   It cannot come soon enough.

Starbucks is from Seattle, I too am from there and have no great loyalty to the company or even like the coffee.  When I order coffee I drink it black and for years I would joke "I take it black, like my men!"  I have dated many men, many black men, and men of many other races.  I also used to joke that my bedroom could have been a satellite office of the United Nations.   Race and ethnicity was not something I thought of until I had to.   And now I am sick of constantly thinking and talking about it.

I have never shied away from acknowledging race or even pretending that it did not matter.  It does.  So does Gender, Ethnicity/Religion, Sexual Identity but at some point I need to just see the person and know them as they choose to present themselves to me. To have to treat, do or act differently because a person is "different" says that is a type of discrimination in and of itself.

Today I had my Starbucks moment I knew eventually it would come from a school where the students are again a walking Shakespearean tragedy.  I used to feel sorry for them, then I was appalled  and now I am truly disgusted being in their company. They are utterly ill behaved, without restraint, without intellect, dignity and any sense of self.  To have a sense of self awareness would mean one would have a sense of empathy and in turn understand the concept of cause and effect or aka the Golden Rule. They do but just in the negative way.  They are abused so they abuse, the are derided so they deride. They hate because they are hated.  It is circular and beyond my ability to change.  As they say here, "It's above my pay grade."  They truly mean that as they do nothing but the bare minimum.  It crosses races and genders and it is truly the one measure of equality that cannot be denied.

So today I was discussing the role of technology and modernization with regards to farming and that despite it is still an amazingly dangerous profession.  Family farms are the worst with children more often killed and few safety laws and regulations apply. And that technology that on one hand makes the work easier can often make it more dangerous without training and skilled labor.  And that issue of labor is one still today largely filled by man power.  And then I said "Back in the 'good ole days when as Trump likes to say America was great' we relied on slave labor and then when outlawed  what came as a result the Cotton Gin and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution."   The kids heard only part of that comment and in turn the next hysterical comments became "She is a racist bitch."

That is the Starbucks moment. You can try to explain and you can try to elaborate on the comment to explain one's perspective when it comes to how farm workers have been historically treated, from Indentured Servitude to Slavery to now Migrant/Transient workers who are still exploited and mistreated all in the pursuit of filling our tables and building our economies.  And without having the labor we will find ourselves economic and personally unfilled.  But again a group of volatile sixth graders in Nashville Public Schools are incapable of that kind of rationale and again after the last week of more shootings and the Starbucks hysteria you have children picking for a  fight to prove worth.  I just wanted to leave as there was at that point nothing I could do to turn that situation around.  I called the Office and two Security persons and a Teacher came and I told them I screwed up used a bad analogy but that doesn't excuse the kids response however as I was the adult I needed to leave.  They saw my obvious distress and got in my rent a car and left.  I have been a few times to this school and it is not any different or special it is the same and no matter they are all really really bad.

So I came home to a demand I return and sign out.  I said I left at 2 and no one said otherwise I assumed that would be corrected and what more could I do at that point. I knew instantly that when the woman on the phone informed me that they were getting conflicting stories I asked from whom did she speak? The Teachers I spoke to or the Security and at one point why did not someone come immediately why was I told to go.  Then she began that typical Southern lecture and I turned my voice into my sweet little girl voice, spoke breathlessly and went on apologizing for my error in my metaphors and that the students did not know me or my sarcasm and that it was entirely my fault and I felt so upset that I upset them I needed to leave as I knew that I could not resolve this and that the lessons and examples were all on the board and they could see that I had taught the same lesson in the first block and had no problem and I talked about the children  and my positive exchanges with students who knew of Eli Whitney and the girl whose Father was a farmer as was mine and it was him I learned about the NFW and in turn the great Cesar Chavez and how important the idea that labor and those who have either chose or been forced to do it have been a great part of history. (How I wrote this is how I said it so you get the idea I'm exhausted typing it) 

I knew instantly that since she could no longer shame or scold me thanks to the rush of words she was instead rolling her eyes and could hear the exasperated sighs so I knew this convo was coming to a close.   At that point she said I will notify the sub office of the time change and that was the end of it. I thanked her and said you need not worry I will never be back.   And that ended the conversation.   I won't be back it is not worth it.  Frankly not one of the schools are.  I have had variations of the same theme when it came to my calling out the students and their behavior and in turn the need by the "authority" figures to turn it back onto me as if I am the failure.  But today rather than being angry for being called a Racist and Bitch I accepted it as that was the Student's truth. They had it half right and at one point I was not sure which half.

In all honesty I wish I never had set foot in any of the schools here.  They make me hate myself every day.  There NEVER will be an open discussion on race.  Even the story behind the Starbucks incident was told with bias.  Yes the young woman called 911 but we have never heard why she felt compelled to do so.  Her 911 call was short but the dispatch from the 911 operator was quite different and in turn the Police reports have another version.  This is the Starbucks moment.  When all the pieces of the puzzle are turned over they take time to put together but you can skip all that and apologize and be contrite and promise to never do it again.

I learned that much from the Starbucks moment. Suppress it, lie about it and obfuscate the truth as that is how we have managed to find ourselves where we are.  And if you think it will change think again it never will.

And I read these responses to the article about Starbucks mea culpa of shutting down stores for training about unconscious biases.

To the Editor:
For Starbucks, efforts to address racial bias should focus on minimizing discretion. Studies have shown that the more discretion a decision maker has, the more likely it will be used to treat African-Americans more harshly. Post the store policy on customer purchases being required for use of bathrooms, and stick to it. Before the police are called, require that at least two employees agree it is appropriate under the rules.
Employee training on explicit and implicit racial bias will not guarantee perfect results. It is, however, an important next step.
The writer is a professor of law and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida.

To the Editor:
Is the reason that the incident at Starbucks has gained so much media attention that people are genuinely shocked and outraged, or because it’s Starbucks, lord of coffee distribution?
The Seattle Times calls the incident a “painful wake-up call to confront racial bias.” Painful wake-up call for whom? Certainly not for black Americans. I agree that the incident is beyond disgraceful and that action needs to be taken. But what effect will training have?

Training, as Starbucks proposes, can be seen as a way to untrain our racially biased gazes. But there’s a quiet worry among those of us who have partaken of such simulations that training is just a way to learn how to cover up, to pretend not to see race. Training may not be the most sustainable solution. But then, what is?


Training, as Starbucks proposes, can be seen as a way to untrain our racially biased gazes. But there’s a quiet worry among those of us who have partaken of such simulations that training is just a way to learn how to cover up, to pretend not to see race. Training may not be the most sustainable solution. But then, what is?

Hey how about learning how to communicate.  And that comes from all sides.  We don't have one fucking clue how to talk to one another and then when someone says something we go ballistic they cannot explain and then they are dismissed/fired/ostracized until they aren't.  A good example is the Director Lars VonTrier who is now back at Cannes after an idiot remark that no one bothered to call him out at that time.  No, they banned him. Funny how Hitler remark got him banned but his disturbing movies that exploit women, the accusations by Bjork that he sexually harassed her (but that was before MeToo) no.

The entire Starbucks incident is what we used to call a failure to communicate. All sides of the story need to be heard.  The young woman who has since been fired, the men and their response to her, the Police themselves and the 911 Operator and throw in the dude the men were there to meet.  This will end all of the fucking bullshit nonsense that came out of this.  And yes we all have biases be they conscious or not. I know who I am but once someone thinks otherwise there is little I can do to change that so I left on my own accord.  I know better and someone has to be the grown up in the room.  

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