Just two weeks ago, two young black men were arrested after a Starbucks barista called police on them for simply sitting down in the coffeehouse. Video captured the arrests and the clip went viral immediately. The reaction was swift and unrelenting. The young black men were clearly racially profiled and treated like they were because they are black. Hell, they were only in the Starbucks for two minutes, not even really getting a chance to actually loiter.
The outrage towards Starbucks came from all corners of social media – white, black, man and woman – all joined forces to threaten boycotts, write the company and demand they rectify a wrongdoing. As a result of the mobilizing, the Starbucks CEO decided to stand with the young men, offering them working opportunities, making media appearances and even closing stores for a day to initiate diversity training for its employees. This was certainly above and beyond what we’ve seen from most companies accused of racial insensitivities and it’s largely thanks to the efforts of black activists who held Starbucks’ feet to the fire nonstop.
Waffle House has been spared this outcome.
Chikesia Clemons walked into a Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama late on the evening of April 22nd, a few days after the Starbucks incident. It’s unclear what happened next but we do know, thanks to another viral video, police were called and Clemons was held down, her breast exposed, officer hands on her neck. It was disgusting. The events that led to the altercation are disputed: Waffle House employees say that Clemons walked in drunk and threatened to “shoot up” the restaurant after being charged $.50 for plastic utensils. However, the employee who called 911 never mentioned the threat to the operator. Clemons’ attorney, Benjamin Crump, says he has witnesses who dispel the employee’s claims.
Waffle House and its CEO have stood by the actions of its employees and even taking a step farther by saying they “strongly support the actions taken by the Saraland Police Department” (despite the fact that Waffle House as a business isn’t one with an expertise in law enforcement training so they really don’t have any authority to say what is proper protocol or not).
And through it all, the amount of pushback directed at Waffle House has been infinitesimal compared to the amount of action directed at Starbucks. There are marches taking place in Georgia, and proposed boycotts and sit-ins, but not nearly on the level of what we saw at Starbucks, which forced the CEO to speak up. Why?
Is it because there were so many vocal white cosigners for the Starbucks incident as opposed to the Waffle House situation? The Starbucks incident was one of those acts of resistance that didn’t inconvenience white people while at the same time allowing many to feel like they are about equality – it’s easy to point the finger at one Starbucks worker for her actions. However, we’ve seen how so many white Americans simply can’t bring themselves to question law enforcement.
Is the reluctance because there just never seems to be the same sort of thirst for justice when it comes to black women as for literally any other group of people on this planet? We’ve seen these cases so often of a hesitance or flat-our refusal for anyone to stand up for black women, which the exception of black women themselves. Of course, there’s the fact that the Waffle House situation has more dissenting testimonies than Starbucks. That’s undeniable. But no matter what the narrative is, there’s absolutely no reason for Clemons to have been assaulted as she was. That is also undeniable. So Waffle House going so far as to defend the police actions is a reprehensible enough decision to warrant immediate action, even if you feel they are justified in calling police in the first place.. Sadly, though, when it comes to instances of black women being attacked, there’s always a wait-and-see approach. Stories about wronged black women seem to bring about the “let’s let the facts play out crowd.” The same people who have an understanding of lies and conspiracies to keep black men subjugated are suddenly proponents of the American judicial system, despite its history of terrorizing black communities.
Where does that leave the Chikesia Clemonses of the world? The same place it left Korrine Gaines or the endless black women who are victims of R. Kelly’s sexual assaults. Alone, defended by only other black women and a few choice allies. So what side do you fall on?
If you spoke up about Starbucks but have been silent about Waffle House, then you need to ask yourself why. And what that means about your ideas of justice for black women. Because it needs to be understand that none of us are free until all of us are free.
Here’s more information on how you can help bring #JusticeForChikesia and support.
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