People are shining a spotlight on companies' racial discrimination after Starbucks arrests -- here are 6 incidents that show how common the problem actually is

  • In April, two black men were arrested at Starbucks after asking to use the bathroom without having made a purchase.
  • Footage of the event went viral and Starbucks apologised, announcing plans to close all stores for an afternoon to conduct racial-bias training.
  • In the weeks since, many similar incidents of seemingly unequal treatment have emerged, with companies including Airbnb, Waffle House, and Nordstrom receiving backlash.

The arrests of two black men at Starbucks have put a spotlight on how people of colour – especially black people – are treated at restaurants and stores across the United States.

Since footage of two men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks went viral in April, countless other stories have emerged of similarly unfair treatment by other companies.

As many people of colour have shared, these experiences are common. However, in 2018, people are now able to capture footage of the incidents on their cell phones. And, social media allows this footage to go viral, forcing companies to respond.

Over the last month, a growing list of companies has faced backlash over the treatment of people of colour in stores and restaurants. From a man who was choked while being arrested outside a Waffle House to three black teens who were accused of shoplifting by Nordstrom workers, people’s stories are making the news. As a result, companies are being forced to grapple with how to best respond and, in many cases, apologise.

Here’s a list of incidents from the last month that reveals how common instances of seemingly unfair treatment actually are in 2018:

Two black men arrested at Starbucks

Twitter/@missydepinoA viral video shows Philadelphia police arresting two black men inside a Starbucks as witnesses protest that the men ‘didn’t do anything.’

In April, a video of two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia location of the coffee chain went viral. Employees called the police after the men refused to leave the Starbucks after asking to use the restroom without having purchased any drinks.

Starbucks apologised and announced plans to close all locations in the United States for the afternoon of May 29 to “conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.” On Thursday, chairman Howard Schultz announced plans to open bathrooms to all people, 100% of the time.

LA Fitness forces two black men out of the gym without reason

designs by Jack /

LA Fitness forced two black men to leave a gym in Secaucus, New Jersey, saying that they had not paid to be there. The men – one member and one using a guest pass – said they were repeatedly confronted by employees and police while trying to work out in April, soon after the Starbucks arrests.

LA Fitness blamed the incident on employees’ confusion.

“We have spoken to the member to apologise and assure him that he and his guests are welcome in our clubs at all times,” the company said in a statement to NBC. “I can confirm that the 3 employees most closely associated with this incident are no longer with the company.”

Woman forced to the ground, exposing her breasts, at Waffle House

Chikesia Clemons was arrested at a Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama, in April. Cell-phone footage of the arrest, taken by Clemons’ friend, shows multiple officers physically wrestling Clemons to the ground, exposing her breasts.

Waffle House said in a statement that while the company was still “obtaining and reviewing information,” “the information we have received at this point differs significantly from what has reportedly been attributed to Ms. Clemons.”

“After reviewing our security video of the incident and eyewitness accounts, police investigation was appropriate,” Waffle House’s statement continued.

Neighbours call the police on three black people renting an Airbnb

Tero Vesalainen /

Neighbours called the police after seeing four people – three of them black – loading their suitcases into their car after a stay at an Airbnb in Rialto, California, in late April. The neighbours suspected the Airbnb guests were burglars.

Police questioned the guests, eventually releasing them without any charges.

“Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we have aggressively worked to fight bias and discrimination in society,” the company said in a statement to CNN. “We are also reaching out to our partners at the NAACP, National Action Network, Colour Of Change, and others to discuss this matter and ensure we are doing all we can to protect our community when they travel.”

Teens accused of shoplifting at Nordstrom Rack

Mekhi Lee, Dirone Taylor, and Eric Rogers II were shopping at a Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood, Missouri, in early May when they noticed they were being monitored by store employees.

The black teens left the store, only to be approached by police pulling into the parking lot. Police told them that they had received a call accusing three black men of theft. The teens were allowed to leave without charges after an investigation.

Following the incident, Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, met with the teenagers and their families to apologise.

“I feel fortunate to have met these young men and their families. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to their concerns and offer our sincere apologies on behalf of Nordstrom,” Thomas said in a statement. “I also want to thank the young men for their poise in dealing with local law enforcement and the police themselves for handling the situation professionally.”

Man choked by police officer outside of Waffle House

On Sunday, Waffle House employees called police on 22-year-old Anthony Wall after he got into an argument with several workers at a Warsaw, North Carolina location. Footage Wall shared on Facebook shows an officer choking him and slamming him to the ground.

“We are looking into the incident that occurred at our Warsaw, NC, restaurant to gather all the facts,” Waffle House said in a statement. “Initial reports say the customer became agitated, and the police were called. In an interview with WTVD-TV in Raleigh, NC, Mr. Wall said he took things too far with our employees.”

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