Readers React: The white privilege that causes people not to sympathize with the black men arrested at a Starbucks

Rashon Nelson listens to a reporter’s question as Donte Robinson looks on during an interview with t
Rashon Nelson, left, and Donte Robinson sit during an interview with a reporter in Philadelphia after their arrest at a local Starbucks.
(Jacqueline Larma / Associated Press)

To the editor: I loved Erin Aubry Kaplan’s piece, “Black people were lulled into thinking Starbucks was different — a safe space. We were wrong.”

I recently lost a longtime friendship over a discussion about the Philadelphia incident, in which two black men who were refused bathroom access at a Starbucks were arrested. Toward the end of a lovely dinner, I talked about how sad and disgusted I was by the mistreatment of these men.

My friend defended the Starbucks employee who called the police and the right of a business to refuse service to anyone. My friend’s position was that “we” would have either ordered something or left if told to.

His white privilege informed him of this view. I reminded him that “we” would not have been told to leave and that “we” could have even used the bathroom. This “we” is nothing more than an expression of racism — and I told him that.


I don’t want to belong to that club of “we.”

Debra R. Brunsten, Los Angeles


To the editor: Kaplan ties the arrest of two black men at Starbucks to post-Reconstruction racism. It is wrong to compare the vicious racism of that time with what happened in one or two Starbucks out of thousands of locations.


Obviously racist beliefs exist in America, but to condemn a whole company because of the actions of a few prejudiced employees smacks of demagoguery. And the response of Starbucks management clearly shows it is trying to fix the problem.

Robert Newman, West Hills

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