Philadelphia Magazine spoke with the brave woman who released the now viral video showing two black men being handcuffed at a Philladelphia Starbucks and later arrested for doing absolutely nothing wrong. Black men being profiled or worse yet killed by the police is a common story in America of late, but racism as a motivation is often met with skepticism. It is why when Melissa DePino shared her story with the local magazine she stated she didn’t expect the video to cause such response.
What’s been the reaction to the video that you shared?
I can’t even get over it. It’s got 4.15 million views, 101,000 retweets. It’s freaking insane. Honestly, I didn’t think this would get picked up.
People ignore this kind of stuff. They don’t believe that it happens. People are saying that there must be more to this story. There is not. This would never happen to someone who looks like me. People don’t believe black people when they say this stuff happens. It does. They want to know the extenuating circumstances. There are none.
DePino’s comment, “there must be more to the story”, is a common phrase used primarily by white commenters to eliminate racism as a motive when stories of police brutality, inequitable treatment or racial profiling are uncovered in America. In fact, previous polls suggest many Americans believe we live in a post-racial society although this perception stands in stark contrast to data on almost any outcome that has been assessed. From life expectancy to infant mortality rates to school discipline to mortgage rejection to police use of force, outcomes for white Americans tend to be — in the aggregate — better than outcomes for black Americans, often substantially so.
Hopefully the outcome of this story will have a different end. The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, called the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia a “reprehensible outcome” and has deployed an outreach program to repair trust within the community. And today Johnson released a press statement saying he’d like to sit down with the two gentleman personally to issue an apology.
Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers:
By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome.
I’m writing this evening to convey three things:
First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.
In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes—who is on the ground in Philadelphia—to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement. Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.
We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices. The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.
We also will further train our partners to better know when police assistance is warranted. Additionally, we will host a company-wide meeting next week to share our learnings, discuss some immediate next steps and underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity. I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day—which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.
Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.
We’ll keep you posted as the story develops.