Every morning when I get to the office, I check my emails, handle any urgent matters, and head over to my local Starbucks for a much-needed cup of coffee. This morning was no different in that regard.
However, July 12 is a special day. This date marks one year since Sandra Bland was killed in police custody. It also marks three years since community watchman George Zimmerman was allowed to walk free after shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin to death.
It is also one week since Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot at point blank range by police although they posed little or no threat to the officers’ lives.
The one thing that all of the deceased have in common is that they were black, and their lives did not matter to those who abruptly ended them.
Today, as we as a country struggle to reconcile the vision of the nation we want to be with the actions of bigoted cowards who disgrace their uniform, I do the only thing I can to ensure that the victims’ lives did matter: I say their names, and ensure that they are never forgotten.
With that in mind, when I visited my usual Starbucks in New York’s Financial District, I went by a new name… A name that should be uncontroversial to anyone who recognizes humanity in all: Black Lives Matter.
The barista took my order, and asked who it was for. However, while I expected to be served as normal, I was quickly informed that Black Lives Matter would not be served at this establishment.
I was cast to the side as other customers’ names were called to receive their drinks. I appealed to no less than three baristas, asking why I could not be extended the same courtesy. I was told that Starbucks does not take a stance on racial matters.
Is the value of a life a racial matter? Is simply acknowledging that black lives are worth something such a cause for controversy?
I was told that the baristas did not feel comfortable serving drinks to folks by the name of Black Lives Matter. One barista even phoned her district manager for confirmation that she was not required to serve me.
After what seemed like an endless exchange, one of the baristas finally relented and handed over my coffee, reluctantly confirming that it was mine by name. I had, after all, already paid for the drink.
During the ordeal, I was met with encouraging words from fellow patrons, and disdainful glares from the team of baristas that had smiled in my face every day for a year, right up until the day I changed my name to one that begs the acknowledgement of my humanity.