May 23, 2018

Why do white Americans call the police on people for #LivingWhileBlack?

The Stream takes a look at how loitering laws in the United States have influenced the way white Americans see black people in public spaces.

Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were in a Starbucks cafe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when employees accused them of "trespassing" and called the police to remove them from the store. Although the men reached a settlement with the company, the story of their arrest is just one of many recent incidents in which police have been called upon to interrogate black Americans for innocuous reasons. The details of these events have reignited discussions about racial profiling in the United States and the realities of what some online have referred to as "living while black."

"There's a privilege that white people have that I don't have", said Darren Martin, a former Obama White House staffer who was mistaken for a burglar while moving into his apartment in New York City. "Because you have black skin, things that you do might be perceived differently."

Starbucks plans to close its 8,000 US stores on May 29 for anti-racial bias training but some observers, like researcher Steven W. Thrasher, remain skeptical about the impact of such a move.

"There are two classes of American citizens: Members of one can carry machine guns in front of the police in open-carry states without recrimination...and wait for friends in Starbucks without worry. Members of the other - people like me - worry about leaving our hands in our pockets after jaywalking on a cold night."

In this episode, The Stream speaks with black Americans about how they've experienced racial profiling in public spaces, and explores whether there should be penalties for calling the police on innocent people. Join us on Wednesday at 1930 GMT.

Read more:
A Uniquely American Starbucks Scandal - The Atlantic
Starbucks now says anyone can use its bathrooms, whether they buy anything or not - Quartz
White people keep calling the cops on black people for no reason. That’s dangerous. - Vox

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