A young white man spat on a young black man and twice on the black woman sitting with him, both professionals, in a Starbucks at Capitol Hill in Seattle. The black man was stunned — what an unlikely place for a hate crime. After all, Seattle is one of the country’s most diverse cities, and Starbucks draws more open-minded customers than not. But the situation got worse.
What happened? The black man met a colleague who had just started working a local community college. He was meeting her to welcome her to the neighborhood and to her new job.
As they sat visiting, he heard someone behind him say something that sounded like “f**king n**gr b**ch.” He described it like this:
‘My brain needed a new explanation. I turned and realized that a young, white man in his early 20s behind me, neatly dressed with short-cropped hair with a dark-colored backpack, was directing this statement at my colleague.’
‘As I turned to face him, he said, “That’s right, fu**ing n**ger b**ch” again. He walked to the door and walked out. The incident didn’t really register with me, even as he walked out.’
Neither of the two young professionals had ever met him, but the stranger continued yelling as he went outside and stood at the window, his words lost through the glass. Finally, the man walked away.
Although the white man didn’t appear “mentally disturbed or under the influence of any substance,” he was definitely angry. The black professional man said:
‘He saw two African-Americans sitting in a Starbucks and decided that it was OK to assault us.’
The FBI describes a hate crime as:
‘A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.’
The couple was dressed in the professional attire required of educated college administrators, yet the stranger felt free to spew his anger over them. The professional man believes the white man saw life in a skewed way:
‘The young man didn’t see educated college administrators sitting at the table. He saw two black people and, in his twisted sense of the rules of life, our socio-economic status, educational accomplishments or our age required no respect or deference.’
‘In fact, he seemed only to see a woman of color whom he could brazenly assault in an open space with others watching.’
The two reported the incident to the police, but the black man noted the lack of response of other people nearby. These people, with the exception of two, did not offer any assistance or support to the couple. The black man said:
‘Everyone else at the café sat silently or went on with their business. In a truly post-racial world, that would not be how things work.’
‘In a post-racial world, that kind of violation would mobilize every person in that space to actively resist an assault on two people – an assault that happened because of our race and because of the gender of my colleague.’
‘In a post-racial world, there’s no silence. Even if you can’t directly act, you take a stand to support those who are assaulted, like the woman who volunteered to be a witness, or the manager who took action.’
The country is far from being a post-racial society.
Featured Image: Capitol Hill In Seattle Starbucks, Google Maps.