Starbucks and Identity Politics

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As delicious as it is to see a lefty corporation like Starbucks getting the full treatment, and as fun as it would be to simply let the unfolding drama of the left devouring the left continue apace, my sense of duty stirs within, and so I shall try to snatch a snippet of edification from the farce.

The background appears to be this. A couple of black guys were waiting for an acquaintance at a Philly Starbucks, sat at a table, didn’t purchase anything, and refused to leave when asked. The manager then called the cops, who arrested them. Outrage ensued, and Starbucks has been doing the craven crawl ever since.

What this does is enable me to explain more fully what I mean by identity politics, because this is almost a pure example of it. I am not talking about the incident itself, but rather the reaction to it. As regards the incident, it could be a case of the kind of hassling that white people rarely experience—e.g. the men had explained twice that they were going to order their coffee when their friend arrived—or it could be an instance of a conscientious manager judging a couple of freeloaders by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. Let us assume, for the rest of this post, that the facts of the case could honestly go either way. Our sympathies might finally land with the manager, or with the men arrested. We don’t know.

Identity politics means that all of that is irrelevant. It does not matter. Nobody cares. If the men were freeloaders, the optics of the arrest remain the same, and all that matters to the perpetually outraged is that the optics work for them. If the men were not freeloaders, a host of people who would naturally have sympathized with them are discouraged from even thinking about it by the outrage professionals.

When we are fully catechized by the mob mentality of identity politics, we stop asking “what is the right thing to do?”—and we start asking “what will this look like?” We have successfully gone from a culture where, if this black man had only been white, he would have been hired in a skinny minute, to a culture where, if this black man had only been white, he would have been fired sometime last year. Is it possible for a black man to do a substandard job? And so tell me the truth now, all you whiter than white supervisors—are you going to say or do anything about it? Tell me honestly, do you want to be a just manager, or are you satisfied just to look like one?

The placards say a lot about “justice,” but if we define it biblically that is the last thing in the world anybody cares about anymore. What they are referring to is justice for the grievance of the group, and the incident that brought on the protest is simply the pennant for the group identity, for the cause. And the cause is the only thing that matters. But real justice means that you treat individuals as individuals, and not as members of a class. The fact that this incident led almost immediately to all Starbucks employees being sent off to rehab is indicative of the times we live in. And these are times that are simply marinating in (biblically-defined) injustice.

We say we demand justice, but we actually hate it. Oh, how we hate it.

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15, ESV).