Can Black-owned coffee shops expect racists to target them in response to the aftermath of the incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks?
A Black-owned coffee shop in Denver discovered the N-word written in permanent marker on the outside ledge of the shop Wednesday (May 30) morning—one day after Starbucks shut down nationwide for an afternoon of anti-bias training for its staff.
“I didn’t think someone’s nasty, ugly words could be so hurtful. I hate that I’m even crying right now,” Millete Birhanemaske, owner of Whittier Café, told KDVR-TV.
With anger still hot over the arrest of two Black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks in April, a door of opportunity has opened for Black-owned coffee shops. They offer a welcoming environment where Black folks can sit over a cup of coffee without being concerned about making some white people feel threatened. It’s also a space where people of color can have an honest dialogue about race in America.
Birhanemaske, an Ethiopian native, uses coffee beans from several different African nations. She opened her shop in a Denver neighborhood that was once the only place in town where African Americans could purchase property because of red lining and segregation.
She described her café as a meeting place for discussions about social justice. “We have a justice fund, where we treat people to coffee if they can’t afford to buy it,” Birhanemaske stated.
Despite the vandalism, Birhanemaske plans to continue fostering positive change in the community. “This guy or whoever it was can’t deter what we’ve got going on here – it’s just all love,” she added.