Nine Things to Do While Starbucks is Closed

By Erin and Heidi

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going: Aimie, Ali, Annie, C+C, Edith, Elizabeth, Evan, Jennifer, Kari, Kathryn, Kelli, Lori, Matthew, Megan, and Miriam. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support.


coffee cup

photo by Mark

Starbucks is in the news because they are closing next Tuesday, 29 May for a company-wide training on race. To quickly review in 2015 Starbucks launched a company wide campaign to start conversations about race. Baristas were supposed to write “Race Together” on cups, CEO at the time Howard Schultz (a white male) was front and center on the campaign. That campaign was short lived and fizzled faster than a Frappuccino could be made. In 2018 Starbucks is back in the news because a manager called the police on two Black men who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks, they hadn’t ordered anything was the excuse/justification the manager gave.

Here is a list of nine-things you can do while Starbucks is closed for their company-wide training.

1. Visit a people of color owned coffee shops or business. Spending our monetary and time resources at poc owned businesses is investing in communities of color. If you need suggestions of where to go check out this map by Equity Matters. It is an open source map so please add to it and edit it as needed (e.g. add or delete businesses that are now closed). Bookmark it and refer back to it so you can invest your dollars into poc businesses. Here is a Black owned coffee roaster, Mt. Tahoma Coffee Company, you can order online so no excuses for those of you reading in other parts of the internet world.

2. Read the previous Fakequity article on “We Can’t Train our Way to Racial Equity.” The short version is one-time training won’t ‘fix’ Starbucks or any other organization. The racism that launched Starbucks into the news isn’t isolated to coffee shops it can be found almost anywhere. Racial equity and undoing racism work is a lifetime commitment.

3. Learn about implicit bias. The Starbucks incident is not uncommon, the same behavior of calling out Black and Brown people happens everyday in grocery stores, and even in people’s own homes. Implicit bias and white supremacy are built into American society.

4. Acknowledge we have racial biases. It’s easy to point fingers at Starbucks, and say how terrible their implicit racial bias problem is, but the reality is that all brain science points to the fact that is it human to have bias. It’s easy to point out other folks racial bias and it’s often done in a shaming way. This finger pointing and blaming makes folks defensive, shut down, and unwilling to admit we all have biases. Repeat after Heidi. It is human to have bias. We’re not a bad person if we admit we have bias. Once we acknowledge it we can begin to catch ourselves before we blindly act on them. We’ll blog about this more in future posts.

5. Recognize coffee’s history and origins. Coffee beans originally came from Ethiopia. Because of trade, colonization, and companies like Starbucks, US coffee culture is now synonymous with white culture. Many communities have unique coffee cultures and ceremonies that involve slowing down and connecting people to their histories, learn about them and remember Starbucks fast-mass produced coffee culture isn’t the norm. In the US there is a violent history of African Americans being segregated and not allowed into restaurants, spend some time learning this history.

6. Not everyone drinks coffee. We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim faith, which involves fasting from sunup to sundown. Many of us center our social lives and work around food and drink. Recognizing how prevalent our US lives are around food is an important part of recognizing some of our biases. I (erin) mark Ramadan on my calendar as a reminder to be conscious of the holy month when scheduling with partners. I don’t drink coffee either, never got around to liking it, so I’ll still meet you for ‘coffee’ but order a tea instead.

7. Design your no-Starbucks-cause-they-are-watching-implicit-bias-videos-afternoon differently. How many times do we default to using Starbucks or other large companies (amazon, Facebook, etc.) instead of defaulting to a poc centered way. Visit a poc centered and preferably embedded museum or cultural center such as Northwest African American Museum, Wing Luke Museum, American Latino Museum, Smithsonian Museum of American Indian,or Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. If you look hard enough you can find a poc centered community driven museum or cultural center, so don’t try to use the excuse “But I’m nowhere near the Smithsonian so I can’t visit a poc museum.”

Heidi also shares this: “I realized in my work I spend most of my money at white owned businesses, in fact too much money at Amazon, damn them for making it so easy to shop whenever something comes to mind. This was by design. If you feel a little uneasy about directing money towards people of color owned businesses in this explicit and intentional way, consider the opposite. Do you want to spend most of your money at only white owned businesses? Usually the answer is no, but that is the current default design of the system. In an attempt to make it easier to spend money at people of color owned businesses, we created an open source map of people of color owned businesses. So now if someone wants to have a coffee meeting or happy hour, we can just open up the map and easily choose a people of color owned business. Please add to the map. I’m happy to report it now even includes a marijuana shop (only to be used in states where pot is legal).

8. Don’t burden pocs, especially Black and Brown people, with educating you on race. In what limited information we’ve seen on the Starbucks training it looks like they engaged very well-respected and credentialed people to help them design the training. It will feature videos, a guidebook for facilitators, and conversation. We sincerely hope in those conversations the pocs in the room aren’t burdened with having to educate others or deal with white tears, fragility, hostility, and so on. Creating a space to learn together takes time and dedication, practice, and trusting relationships.

9. Register to vote. Spend the afternoon getting involved in civic actions. Voting is important to undoing racist policies at a systems level. Register to vote and help someone else register. Learn about an obscure race or ballot measure– those school board elections, initiatives and referendums, port commissioners races on the ballot. We have yet to meet someone who is well versed on everything they vote on. Engage someone unexpected in a conversation about these and think through how race impacts the election. The other day, while I (erin) was waiting for my kid to finish a project I chatted with a small business owner-of-color about Washington’s need for an income tax and how a regressive tax system holds back families-of-color like hers. She was confused, but it planted a seed of a thought for a future conversation.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

Being in Just Relationships

By Erin O. with much thanks and appreciation to Jondou Chase Chen for the ideas shared

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going. Lori, C+C, Kari, Kathryn, Elizabeth, Evan, Jennifer, Annie, Miriam, and Edith thank you. If I missed anyone my apologies and thank you for your support.


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Photo taken at the National Portrait Gallery by Erin Okuno

Today, at my organization’s coalition meeting I threw out an ice-breaker question inspired or riffed-off of (as he likes to call it) from Jondou. “What does community justice look like?” and “What does it mean to be in a just relationship?” The question left some scratching their heads and others dove right in. The answers that were shared out were interesting. One person shared that a sense of community justice had to be rooted in place and history, especially as it relates to understanding Native American and Indigenous contexts and the connectedness of land. Another person said a just relationship felt focused in the present and it was important to see it and feel a connection to each other. From what I could hear people wrestled and grappled with this prompt individually and had to define justice for themselves.

Justice is often conceptualized as a big and imposing idea. When I think of justice I often think of formal justice like law enforcement, judicial and court systems, and judges who adjudicate. There is a buildings called the “Temple of Justice” where court are held — it sounds very ethereal like justice floats down from the heavens on soft puffy clouds or more harshly through thunderbolts if you are in the wrong.

Yet in our everyday lives we have to balance and shift relationships to achieve what Jondou calls person-to-person justice, he uses the metaphor of the Chinese character (ping), shaped as balanced and translated to mean equal, level, peaceful, calm. When I pause to think about the people I value most in my life and the people I have the most meaningful and thoughtful relationships with are those where we seek to have person-to-person justice. This idea has stuck with me this week because of some activist moves I’ve had to take to advocate for my community to seek justice for ourselves.

What is a Just-Relationship

When I say just relationship, I mean to strive for and participates in acts of justice. I am using the adjective form of the word defined as “behaving according to what is morally right and fair,” not the adverb form meaning “exactly.”

Being in a just relationship implies, firstly, there is a connection of some sort. The relationship can either be a deep relationship such as a spouse, familial tie, friends or colleagues, or more loose such as two-Facebook friends, or in elementary school two kids who are friends one-week but frenemies the next. Add on levels of racial awareness, wokeness, sexism, gender-identity, power dynamics, and other layers of social context and relationships begin to get complex. Being in a just relationship means we need to attend to these complexities and sort through them as co-participants in the relationship.

In the book The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything James Martin, SJ, writes that friends do not exist to simply support, comfort, and nourish us. Friendships, which I broaden to define as relationships, serve as secure bases and there is a sense of freedom. Relationships aren’t a possession to own. Being in a just relationship with each other means we seek to balance and comfort and nourish each other as the relationship needs fit.

Since this is a blog about race and equity, I want to name that for too long white people and white institutions treat people of color relationships as something they can own and at the same time dispose of when the relationship becomes a liability. An example include Colin Kaepernick, an NFL player who refused to stand during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. He was valuable when he performed on the football field, but his form of seeking justice wasn’t palatable to NFL owners and due to his protest he remains a free agent with no NFL team signing him. Some might say Kaepernick should have known not to rile things up, that his job is to play football and to protest police brutality while in his role as an NFL is uncalled for. Yet can a person have justice and be in a just relationship with others if they have to censor themselves?

In another more local example, earlier this year the YMCA of Greater Seattle announced they are closing a beloved education program, Powerful Schools. The details are shared in this op-ed. When the announcement was originally made a group of parents sought justice through information, we wrote a letter requesting a meeting with the Y’s leaders– a call-in to build a relationship however fragile. Yet, from the start the relationship felt transactional and there was little person-to-person justice. Communication, transparency, and a willingness to engage in forms of justice seeking can help to balance power and build towards more just relations. These values have to be shared, when it is one sided the relationship is unbalanced and justice is harder to seek.

When justice is lost in a relationship we’re forced to seek other forms of justice, such as having to publicly call out an organization and institutions for their acts of injustice. Cell phone videos showing state-sponsored violence is an example; police (loosely using the word not saying every law enforcement officer) can be perpetrators of injustice and now with mobile technology and social media evidence of this is more widely shared — people seeking their own justice through social media. We lose a sense of humanity and good relations when forced to seek punitive forms of justice.

Historically white led institutions need to get better about realizing their responsibility in helping to bring about justice. They also need to get better about acting with humility and recognizing the histories of injustice that have led to our present day situation. My bitterness runs deep since I see how my community is owned, used, defunded and under prioritized because white-led institutions have the power to prioritize other relationships. If I don’t seek some justice for myself and my community we will be left behind again.

Before I end this on a completely bitter note, I will make a public commitment to seek person-to-person justice first. Relationships are important and we achieve more if we can be in just relations with each other. I will do this as a way to work towards justice and to hopefully write a more just-seeking future.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). Support the blog by becoming a Patreon supporter.

Why Fakequity Isn’t Enough Part II — Men We Need to do Better

Thank you to our Patreon subscribers who help to keep the blog going. C2, Kari, Kathryn, Elizabeth, Evan, Jennifer, Annie, Miriam, and Edith thank you. 


By Jondou Chase Chen

Content warning: Patriarchy, misogyny, and racism in communities of color.

she the people
She the People, artwork by Anika Orrock, from Amplifer.org

 

This year has been filled with some tough reckoning for me as a cishet man of color. Aziz. Sherman. Bill. Junot. Each of these men of color is in the wrong. Each of these men of color has positively impacted me. Both of these are true statements. That doesn’t mean they are equal or off-setting, though. In fact, they are connected. I’m writing now to try to make sense of that painful connection, to name the responsibility that men of color to do and be better, and to offer possibilities for justice not just for sexism but for racism as well.

I’m writing this having read and being committed to continuing to read and believing the experiences of women and GNC folks of color. I don’t intend to write to center another man of color’s voice. And if my intent doesn’t match my impact on you, I want to acknowledge this, ask that you stop reading this now, and offer if you’d like to write or have other writing that you would like to offer instead, to please share. For everyone – whether my writing on this works for you or not – if you haven’t already, please read Carmen Maria Machado, Roxane Gay, Adrienne Maree Brown, Janet Mock, Thi Bui, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Alok Vaid-Menon – who are each 1000 times the writer I am.

This post began as a friendly response to Erin’s post last week on why we center race here on Fakequity. It’s not because I disagreed with Erin. It’s because part of fake equity is oversimplifying a complex world into a single story. One of the many reasons I love being part of the Fakequity team is because we’re not all the same. We have different identities, different experiences, and different ideas. My biggest fear with Fakequity is I’m not sharing as much as I’m getting from the group. Erin’s writing pushed me last week. She had some ideas I hadn’t thought of before. She had some ideas I didn’t completely agree with. She had some ideas that raised up new ideas in me. For all of this, I’m grateful. And one more thing. I’m glad Fakequity isn’t just led by people of color, I’m glad it’s led by women of color who are consistently committed to speaking their truth and calling in other truths. This post then is my call-in to other men of color: until we deal with sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny within our communities of color, we will not end racism.

This is the violence of single stories. Why were these celebrity men of color so important to me? Because they were often the closest thing I had to a mirror for seeing myself and men of other PoC groups in the U.S. media. And as each allegation of sexual violence, harassment, and non-consent has entered the public domain, it’s been like watching a slow strike in bowling where the pins fall like dramatic dominoes rather than with one convincing crash. I can feel myself getting defensive, and I have to interrogate myself. I believe each accusation. I’ve seen brothers of all colors do this, get called on it, and still get away with it for years. My defensiveness verbalizes itself as, “But this is all we’ve got!” And where I need to push myself is, “And this has never been enough.” What we miss when we turn breakthrough figures into single-story heroes is that this can further oppression. In our joy at finally seeing a mirror of ourselves, we believe this is good enough. And when we find out that the mirror is cracked and our heroes are not only hurt people but are hurting people, we struggle to accept this because we are afraid of going back to no stories and no representation. This fear is real because our histories support this. Yet this fear cannot be all that troubles us. We have to believe we are worthy of more than single stories. Men of color, we need to refuse any narrative that explicitly or implicitly presents our story as THE story for all people of color.   

This is the violence of patriarchal racism. When dominant culture only allows for one success story from each marginalized group (and let’s be honest, “some” is more appropriate than “each”), who is most likely to be represented? Those in positions of power within the marginalized group. The straight or passable gay man. The person with lighter skin or more money or who is able-bodied. To make matters worse, this is rarely something that only passively happens. As people of color we are set up to compete with each other to be that single representative, and “by any means necessary” has meant tapping into the systemic power of sexism, heterosexism, classism, etc. We are told to man up, punch up, and grab the bull by the horns. And for those who have been selected to represent all of us, being at the top has meant having access to the rewards of hierarchy. Awards and titles are part of this and so is access to and power over people looking up to and even dependent on you. This is not a guarantee for abuse, but it certainly sets the table for it. And given the vast majority of minoritized peoples do not fit this single story of success, these single stories actually help uphold systemic racism.

Artwork from Amplifer.org, Educate Yourself by Camila Rosa

 

 

And as a man of color far from the top of the celebrity mountain, I need to recognize the ways in which I have defended myself from racism by tapping into my dominant identities – by knowing how to be one of the boys, by being a “strong” (read manly) leader, by being confident and self-assured (which would be read differently if I were not a man). Does tapping into these behaviors help me survive racism? Yes. But does it actually do the work of liberating me or people of color more broadly? I don’t think so. And yes, I get that men of color are being held accountable in ways differently than white men and this is a form of racist patriarchy – but honestly, are you actually okay with anti-racist patriarchy? Men of color, we need to acknowledge that only highlighting male resistance (and especially cishet male resistance) to racism reinforces racism along with other systems of oppression.

This is what why we need real racial equity. In a reposted blast from the past, Erin wrote, “we can’t have other equities until we have racial equity.” I completely agree with this. And I’ll also add: we can’t have racial equity until we have all other equities within racial equity. Read all the writers I listed above and then keep going to prevent any of the authors I’ve listed here from being the single story of (faux) racial equity. Apply intersectional lenses to ourselves, our oppression, our communities, and our liberation. Recognize that success for individual celebrities and subgroups of the marginalized is model minority tokenism and wedge politics and not actual justice.

None of us are free, until all of are free. And for this collective solidarity to be really true, we also need to appreciate the intersectional needs that we each have. As well-intended as “my liberation is bound in yours” can start, all too often, it becomes a statement of false equivalency. For instance, when I hear white people make this statement to me as a person of color, I can’t help but think, “Are you saying your oppression as white people is the same as mine?” I then see my concern played out in anti-racist work when workshops and lectures on whiteness are repeated over and over again without ever getting to restorative justice, reparations, and self-determination. Turning the mirror on myself, I wonder how often people of color who aren’t men justifiably roll their eyes at me when I get on my soapbox talking about racial justice and what I really mean is “Just(ice) for Men (of Color)”? I need to commit to acknowledging my positionality, yes, and taking on toxic masculinity, especially in communities of color, yes. And then what is the justice for others that I need to hear and honor and commit myself to in order for there to be real, meaningful equity, and not just another iteration of fakequity.  Men of Color, we have work to do.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). Please also check out the Support the Blog tab and become a Patreon subscriber.

Erasing People of Color

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Artwork titled The Struggle for Justice featuring a Native American. Picture taken at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC by Erin Okuno

By Erin Okuno

A special thank you to our Patreon supporters. We started the Patreon page as a way to support the blog and your early sign-ups mean so much. Thank you Annie, Evan, Jennifer, and Miriam.


A few weeks ago, I messaged my friend Kirk to ask about a meeting we had both been in. I wanted to hear his thoughts and just to catch up a bit. He’s always thinking some deep thoughts about race, racism,  colonization, and other profundities. When I first met Kirk he was working in the business industry and I wondered how he could be a race and social justice scholar and daylighting (opposite of moonlighting) as a business person. I was confused by that identity mashup. I have a brain block/bias that he could be a business person reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, be unapologetic in his views of race, and be successful in the business world. Kirk challenges my assumptions and I appreciate him doing so. At the end of our message exchange, he said he was thinking about the erasure of Black people and left it at that. We didn’t have time to go deeper and he left that thought rolling around in my head. It got me thinking about how society systematically erases people of color.

I want to acknowledge Kirk started this thought as the erasure of Black people, and I’m adapting the thought to the erasure of people of color for this blog post. I’m shifting the topic to people of color because I can’t write authentically or do justice to the erasure of African American and Black people and do not want to do more harm in overstepping. I welcome thoughts on the erasure of Black and African Americans, and other people of color so we can learn together, email fakequity@gmail.com to share your thoughts.

How People of Color are Erased

I’ll admit I live and work in a bubble of people of color. My cozy bubble is pretty great, it feeds me well. I can ignore or at least have stronger defense and tolerance for white nonsense because I see pocs all around me — we are doing our thing being amazing, behaving badly, and just being ordinary. When I step out of my bubble I face the reality that people of color are systematically erased, sometimes intentionally sometimes because people don’t stop to think and act differently.

Historically, erasure happened as white people colonized and took over what we now call the United States. My kid and I share a read-aloud book most nights. I chose the Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich. The series follows Omakayas, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe, Native American) as a young girl and her family as she grows up and her family is forced to leave their ancestral home – a forced migration that erased them from the place they had established as home since time immemorial. While this story is historical fiction I share it because the experience of reading it makes real an episode of history few are taught. Many other Indigenous People were erased through diseases introduced by colonizers, their languages erased through being forced to speak English, boarding schools or religion erased many indigenous ways. These practices were systematically put into place to take and remove barriers for those in power.

In a more modern example, gentrification is an erasure of people of color. In my twenty-ish years living in Seattle, I’ve seen people of color leaving Seattle for other cities. Neighborhoods that were home to African Americans and immigrants and refugees are now gentrified with only shreds of reminders of who made those neighborhoods what they were. The Central District of Seattle was once a thriving African American neighborhood. Today few African Americans live there, displaced by high real estate prices.

Trump’s talk of building a wall along the US-Mexico border is feeding the fuel of erasing Mexicans and other brown people from the US. A few months ago Trump’s travel-ban stopping people from primarily Muslim countries from entering the US was another attempt to erase and eliminate people of color from the country.

Erased on Paper

The previous examples are physical removals and in some cases extermination of people of color. Our systems also erase people in other ways. Just today I was emailing with a government agency asking why they aren’t tracking race data on a project they just launched. They argued they don’t want to over-collect information especially data connected to race, which I understand, and I argued back if they aren’t tracking race data they don’t know who they aren’t hearing from. Their data collection system is online, which favors white, middle class, and requires English literacy and computer access. This small form of ignoring race has bigger consequences for erasing people of color from the project. If they were centering people of color they probably would have also created pathways for data collection more welcomed and favored by people of color, or at the least track survey returns so they could do targeted outreach along the way. When we aren’t paying attention to race it is easy to fall into habits that lead to systemic racism.

I’ve written before about how poc history isn’t included in history books, or if it is it is told through a perspective of a white author. In TV and media whiteness prevails and pocs are relegated to bit and minor roles. Dylan Morrison (I believe a white male) took several popular movies and edited them down showing just where pocs are speaking, the movies are considerably shorter.

How to Un-Erase

Ensuring pocs aren’t erased is easy, but it takes intention and calling out systems when we see it happening. As an example, a few years ago, I was sitting in a presentation listening to an esteemed professor talk about employment-data. His slide deck was fabulous and super interesting, I was soaking in the data and processing what I was learning. Yet at some point, I notice the datasets were missing Native American statistics. During the break, I handed him a note asking why Native Americans weren’t included. He followed up with me later that day and said the line in the note that made him pause said: “Not including Native Americans makes them invisible.” Data invisibility leads to missing people of color and not seeking out solutions to helping them be more visible.

Un-erasing pocs also means acknowledging our histories and recognizing the historical traumas that brought us to our current situations. Doing this helps to explain the current context and we understand our current communities of color more completely.

We must train ourselves to see people of color and to see pocs everywhere we go. We are here and we are here to stay. We now need to ensure we are counted, present, and able to speak up for ourselves.

If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up to date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. If you would like to subscribe there is a sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). Please also check out the Support the Blog tab and become a Patreon subscriber.