Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Black Tax; Arrest Of Two Black Males Proves Ralph Ellison’s Point That Brothers Are Invisible Men.

April 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Money, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( The unfortunate, yet much too common, phenomenon of African-Americans encountering racial bigotry for no reason beyond being at “the wrong place at the wrong time” is known by a host of names. Without a doubt, my favorite term for the occurrence is “the black tax.

If they are being truthful, most African-Americans will tell you that they have been presented with a “black tax.” Here is the thing about “the black tax”, it always arrives without warning and must be paid immediately; one can only hope that the ransom demanded does not include one’s life.

Although it may be attributable to my being raised in a working-class black community littered with significant pockets of concentrated poverty, I have never believed that I was exempt from “the black tax.” In fact, I find it peculiar that many of my peers foolishly believe that their education, law-abiding status, or cowardly deference for authority figures exempts them from or at least lessens the chances that they will ever be presented with an unexpected “black tax” bill because of their skin color.

The recent arrest of two African-American men sitting in a Philadelphia, Starbucks Café while awaiting the arrival of real estate developer Andrew Yaffe serves as yet another cautionary tale for blacks who do not understand that being black in America is the only transgression needed for one to be assessed “the black tax.”

Witnesses report that the duo was “quietly hanging out, chatting, and waiting for their friend” when they were accosted by officers who informed them that the manager wanted them to leave the establishment. According to officers, failure to immediately vacate the premises would result in their arrest on trespassing charges. One eyewitness recalls that “the two young men politely asked why they were being told to leave and were not given a reason other than the manager wanted them to leave.”

This same witness relayed the following information via social media.

The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.

Predictably, this arrest has proven to be a veritable public relations nightmare for both Starbucks and the Philadelphia Police Department. The alluded to public outcry regarding the unjust arrest was so significant that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, an African-American, issued the following statement that places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Starbucks.

The police did not just happen upon this event — they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee. They were called there, for a service, and that service had to do with quelling a disturbance, a disturbance that had to do with trespassing. These officers did absolutely nothing wrong.

The rapidly escalating inferno of public indignation caused Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to step forward with not only an apology but also a desire to meet the two gentlemen arrested inside of the Café to issue a face-to-face apology. Although I have no suspicions that Johnson’s desire to apologize is anything but genuine, I am confident that a protest scheduled for Monday at the store located at 18th and Spruce streets titled “Shut Down Starbucks!” factored mightily in his decision. The Company CEO has already related that “We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday.”

I am confident that many African-Americans will behave as if this incident is an unprecedented abomination akin to a slave catcher capturing free blacks and returning them to slavery, such feigned shock is shameful at its core as it betrays the day-to-day reality that most black men experience from populations ranging from cops to baristas. Failure to publicly discuss that not even opportunity is needed for the application of “the black tax” is a disingenuous and cowardly move aimed at hiding this nation’s foremost shame. The truth of the matter is that what occurred in that Starbucks Café will continue to occur because this nation is filled with far too many citizens who have been socialized from birth to believe that there are very few good things held within black skin and even fewer encased in the spirits of black males.

To put it simply, black men in this nation are ‘the wretched of the earth.’ This dour view of black men holds true for every anonymous black man that a critical American populace encounters. I am confident that you agree that neither educational achievement, uniqueness, nor individuality of thought is discerned by the eye.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once remarked that fear and hatred tends to clump all together as one. So, I am not surprised that these two unidentified black males were arrested for quietly sitting in a Starbucks Café awaiting the arrival of a friend. Although it is sad to say, these two black men remind me of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Manwhose identity did not matter to his contemporaries. Ellison encapsulates what it means to be a black man in America with the following observation.

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me. 

Who would have ever thought that it was so difficult to be invisible?

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.

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