Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The story that shouldn’t have been a story

A few weeks ago, the piranhas converged on a Starbucks in La Cañada to add to the hysteria surrounding a story that wasn’t a story. Their radio antennas lofting upwards and the journalists running to and fro searching for someone who would say anything gave the news a magnanimous appearance. It seemed to me the one thing they were not searching for was the truth.

Y’all know the story of the racial slur “Beaner” having been printed — allegedly with malice — on two cups of coffee ordered by a Latino customer. It’s my opinion it was an honest error with nothing malicious about it. I think the barista misunderstood what the customer replied when he gave his name.


A mob believes everything it is told, provided its passions, and hatred and fears are catered to. In mob mentality, there’s no need to stay within the limits of plausibility because the more outrageous the allegation, the more readily it is believed. They’re incapable of perceiving the truth, as it is typically the first casualty of any circumstance, simply because truth does not serve the groups’ interests.

I first read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee when I was in the eighth grade. It was punishment doled out by Sister Mary Delores, for one of the umpteen infractions I had committed that day. Harper Lee’s novel was foundational to developing my sense of justice. As a youth, my first hero was Atticus Finch, the protagonist of the story, the small-town lawyer who defended an innocent man against a town that was convinced they were right.


Atticus said, “A mob’s always made up of people, no matter what … doesn’t say much for them, does it?”

I understand social justice and its importance regarding the respectability and inclusion of everyone. In the Book of Matthew we’re told righteousness toward all humanity is essential because it is the right thing to do.

Moral development is not predicated by the dictates of society. At best, society can merely legislate morality. According to Lawrence Kohlberg’s “Stages of Moral Development,” it is a lifelong process, which begins before a child reaches cognition. Subsequently, I scoff at Starbucks’ national training day on May 29 regarding the protocols of civility. This corporate behemoth’s attempt at racial-biased education from my point of view is an attempt to appear politically correct.

I believe Starbucks knew the La Cañada incident was a mistake but didn’t support the kid who made it. Instead, the company quietly shifted personnel around to various stores and hoped its hush-hush strategy would take the heat off of its profitability. That ticks me off. If Starbucks were serious about teaching employees the right thing, it should have done the right thing and supported the kid.

I know the kids who work the store in La Cañada, which serves as my unofficial workplace nearly every day I’m in town. They are hardworking, affable and honorable, but it took four sheriffs to protect them from backlash related to something that was an honest mistake.

Does Starbucks not understand the effects of this strategy? It became an enabler to social media as the mob tried, convicted and executed someone who made a mistake void of any ill will. There were bomb threats made and graffiti painted on the La Cañada store’s window. That’s serious stuff. Can you imagine if someone would have acted on one of those threats?

People get addicted to feeling offended all the time because it gives them a high; being self-righteous and morally superior feels good. This bully culture will continue. Convulsions will be made void of thought, analysis and truth.

If there is any glimmer of light in this, it is the professionalism of Sara Cardine, a journalist for the Valley Sun. Her news article regarding this incident as an allegation was just that, a straight, balanced news story, since Cardine is concerned about truth.