If we want to combat racism, let’s end “bystanderism.”
Nearly every morning from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., I head to my favorite coffee shop in Denver to write. Sometimes with our new 25-week-old Bernedoodle, Gucci, by my side.
For anyone wanting to write a book, this is actually the best advice I can give. Make an appointment with yourself. Keep the appointment. And then write the entire time. It doesn’t really matter if you get 100 or 1,000 words out. Just write.
On October 18, 2023, I was just doing just that while sipping on a nice Guatemalan coffee.
As I typed away, a loud commotion interrupted my thought process.
A white barista and a white customer were yelling at each other.
I stood up.
“What’s happening?” I asked the three people working that day. I knew all of them and was concerned.
“She just said ‘you have a Black attitude’ to Michelle,’” a visibly angry white employee told me as she pointed to the customer.
Michelle is a soft-spoken, kind, smart 20-year-old Black college student who works at the coffee shop to help pay for school.
I turned my eyes to the customer.
“I told her my Americano’s too watery,” the 50-something-year-old white woman said to me in an angry, loud voice. Not denying her racist comment but instead feebly trying to explain her behavior.
“I need you to leave now and never come back,” I responded in an unwavering tone.
“I’m not leaving until I get my refund,” she snapped back.
I quickly handed her $5 from my wallet and, with the security guard who had just arrived, escorted her off the premises and repeated that she was never welcome back again.
What was this “Black attitude,” you might ask?
After the customer complained about the coffee, Michelle in her normal, quiet tone of voice told the customer that the Americano is how they always make Americanos. She didn’t understand why the customer was upset. Two shots of espresso with hot water added.
An Americano is watery.