The humiliation of Black men and the breaking of spirit

I can't shake the video. Not Beyonce at Coachella. I wish that was the thing looping in my head. I'm referring to the viral video of two Black men being arrested at Starbucks because they entered the establishment and didn't immediately order a latte.

The gentlemen entered, used the restroom and then waited for a friend they were meeting. I've done that. I've waited to order until a friend arrived. If it's a business meeting that's just proper etiquette. It's not "trespassing" as it was referred to by Commissioner Richard Ross (a Black man) who made a video defending his officers. His defense by the way is a classic example of how Black people uphold Whiteness and perpetuate implicit bias and racial profiling.

I'm sick to my stomach. In the video the White friend that the Black men were meeting complains to one of the six officers who arrived on the scene. Two officers handcuffed one of the men, one officer handcuffed the other. Their friend asks:

"What did they [the police] get called for? Because there were two Black guys sitting here meeting?"

The police officer sarcastically replies, "Yes, that's it," as if what the man suggested was absurd. Except that is the exact reason the men were being arrested. Witnesses in the Starbucks; White witnesses vouched for the Black men. "They didn't do anything," they can be heard saying on the video. "Nothing."

There's a moment in the video that makes me want to lay down for days. It happens at around :17 as the White friend and the White woman filming confront the officers. It's brief. The young man in the foreground of the video looks her way and smiles, then bows his head.

That is the image of a man whose spirit is breaking. That image is every Black man who has received the message that if you defend yourself against law enforcement you could die. So they choose life that day but at what cost? It's humiliation. It's young Black boys who will have to learn to do the same. That image is a man who can't help but smile at someone trying to defend him because there is no defending a Black man. That image is me and other Black women who might find themselves in the same situation.

Is there a rash of arrests at Starbucks everywhere? No. Did the CEO of Starbucks issue an apology and more training? Yes. But this is the same man that launched the tone deaf campaign encouraging his baristas to start conversations about race with commuters as they picked up their coffee. Despite his appropriate response do his promises mend a broken spirit? No.

Sometimes I think it's working on me;  the erosion of spirit that happens when these events are exposed. It manifests in distraction and an inability to be present. It manifests in doubt, fear and questioning whether there is anywhere I can go and be safe. I have to fight against it everyday.

Is there a rash of arrests at Starbucks everywhere? No. Is there a rash of unjustified arrests and deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement? Yes. So why would I feel safe? Why would any Black person in this country feel safe?

What can we do to maintain our spirit in the face of such distress? Thank heavens for Beyonce.

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