Saturday, December 14, 2013

An unfortunate racial incident as related by Martin Jones

An Unfortunate Racial Incident At Bruegger's Bagels in Northampton, Massachusetts

A black man was ordered to leave the premises under threat of arrest after the management angrily confronted him and said he couldn't stay there all day without making a purchase. He had just arrived and was trying to link his laptop to the Wi-fi before settling in. On past occasions he had been unable to access the wireless service and he wanted to make sure it was working. If it worked, he would stay and make a purchase. If it did not work, he would leave. 

The management pointed out that there were other places he could go and that there were families who came there. Apparently, the families were a factor in the matter. Apparently, the management had hoped that he had initially chosen another coffee shop and never came there in the first place. 

Within seconds after telling him he had to make a purchase, she came back and told him to just leave and furthermore, she would not allow him to make a purchase. 

What she did not realize is that the black man was startled and had been taken aback by the confrontation which she initiated. It was characterized by her angry, aggressive and threatening posture towards him and he was at first understandably reluctant to immediately approach her thereafter in the process of ordering and making a purchase. So he paused and took a minute to regain his composure while waiting for his computer to link with the wireless service. 

 If the hesitation was construed as defiance, it was probably due in no small part to the common and widely
preconceived expectation that black men are violent troublemakers.

She was obviously certain that he was a homeless man who had just left the overnight shelter that closes every day in the early morning, discharging the homeless guests who have to spend the day seeking places to go to escape the harsh winter weather. 

What she did not know was that the black man was not a transient, but a years-long resident of the city and a well-known local musician who was only there at the early hour because of a once-in-a-lifetime event that was occurring overseas at that very moment in Johannesburg, South Africa: the funeral of Nelson Mandela. 

World leaders from dozens of countries had traveled from around the globe to pay tribute to the hero of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. 

The event's featured speaker was none other than Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. 

The black man nonetheless found himself barred from access to that event under circumstances which led him to believe that his race made him an unwelcome element at the bagel shop where he had hoped to watch the live coverage of Mandela's memorial service online.

 He ultimately resolved to put the ordeal behind him and left the establishment after the manager rebuffed his belated attempt to purchase a cup of coffee. Instead, she placed an imaginary phone call to the local police department and no officers would arrive there until being asked to do so by the very same black man who had subsequently encountered them getting coffee at a Starbucks down the street. After hearing the black man's story and confirming that no police call had actually been made, they agreed to grant his request that they go back to the bagel shop and relay to the manager on his behalf the explanation that he was never allowed to give in his own words. 

 The black man was left feeling emotionally devastated by the experience, coming at such a poignant moment in history. He eventually decided that there would be no further action from him on the matter, except to never venture into that business again. 

Any attempt to peacefully resolve the situation would likely be viewed as threatening and result in the engagement of more law enforcement. 

The black man has now retreated to the solitude of his home, which unfortunately is beginning to feel like a prison cell. 

How truly appropriate indeed it all is, happening on this of all days when such a towering giant of freedom and justice as the great Nelson Mandela is being laid to rest. 

Let us all hope that the struggle does not die with him. It is pointedly clear that the fight against racism continues and must be carried onward with courage, grace and dignity. 
Martin Jones
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Jade said...

So sorry this happened to you, Martin. Thank you for sharing this.

Unknown said...

Martin, this really sucks. I'd be interested to hear if there is any followup. And I definitely won't be going to Breuggers. Except, maybe I'll go in an mooch the wifi and not buy anything.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Northampton for three years. The first few weeks I went into some shopes and felt the intense racial discrimination. I had store employees follow me like I was a criminal. As a Hispanic women they were profiling me as a thug...only if they knew I would never cheat or steal.... For those years I traveled to Springfield where I felt comfortable. I should have not feared and went into the stores but easier said than done. That feeling of being unwelcome and judged in such a way was one i did not want to feel again....