Coffee: Organic Honduran, Trader Joe’s brand
A black woman and a white man were fired from Joe Van Gogh on Duke’s campus. The story varies on who cut the cord but there’s no question it all started with Larry Moneta. Larry is Duke’s VP. He’s a regular at Joe’s. According to the Indy article, he buys a lot of vegan muffins. Three days ago, he went in for another. The black shift leader – Ms. Britni Brown – was in charge of the cafe’s playlist. ‘Get Paid’ by Young Dolph was playing. It thumps. It’s trap. Dolph uses profanity. It talks about sex. Mature song, mature themes, no better or worse than a passage of Shakespeare. Larry didn’t like the music. He told Ms. Brown to shut it off and she did. She tried to comp him the muffin but he payed anyway. Then he called Joe Van Gogh and (this is where the stories differ) implied Ms. Brown and her coworker should be let go.
I think the crux of this story – what shows you it’s a dog-whistle – is that Larry wouldn’t let Ms. Brown comp the muffin. You see, I’ve worked customer service for many years. There’s a fundamental principal in customer service: please the customer, close the sale, keep them coming back. There were times at the bookstore where we’d knock the price off a pristine copy because it would make the customer happy. That’s business. That’s the game. Ms. Brown is a businesswoman acting as she should. If Larry had taken the muffin, accepted her (unnecessary but business savvy) apologies, and gone about his day feeling like the transaction had been successful – or, if he had simply decided Joe Van Gogh wasn’t for him and left without the muffin – things would have worked out. But instead, Larry paid for the muffin.
Why? Because to him, Ms. Brown’s role is not that of a young, professional woman doing her job and acting in that capacity – it is of a black girl born to be lesser. He saw Ms. Brown’s suggestions of a cordial, business-like resolution and refused her terms. More than that, he demanded his own terms over hers – get this, over her authority as representative of the business – and after she acquiesced to that indignity – had dirty, powerful money forced onto her – Larry decided to get her fired anyway.
That is white power in America: the ability to disregard any policy or institution; the inability to acknowledge the authority of any black man or woman.
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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“Get paid…, Get paid, whatever you do, just make sure you get paid.” – Young Dolph, Get Paid