“Don’t you even start this s**t with me!”
It was a grey-haired man gripping a cup of coffee, shouting at the barista. I hung back and quickly took a seat at a table to observe.
“You listen here: I went to college; I served in the army with people of all different races; and three of my grandchildren are mixed race! I am not a racist and I am not going to have some kid condescend to me and call me a racist!”
He was leaning over the counter, shaking a finger in the now terrified college-aged barista. Hearing the commotion, a manager emerged from the back to see what was going on. By this time silence had fallen over the coffee shop as everyone watched the altercation play out. The elderly gentlman switched his focus to the manager.
“Your guy here is calling me a racist!”
The manager put on her customer service smile and replied, “Sir, no one is calling you a racist. It’s part of a new campaign we’re doing, where we try to initiate a nationwide conversation about race.” Her tone was patronizing, smug.
Now that he had backup, the barista chimed in, “We’re just helping you think about racial issues.”
It looked like the older man was about to explode. I wished I had been there to hear what the barista had said to him. If it was anything like what the first barista had said to me, I couldn’t blame him. He then said what every other Starbucks customer who had gotten the same treatment was thinking.
“I do not need the kid serving me coffee lecturing me about race! I haven’t done anything to suggest I’m racist! I just want my coffee!”