Speak MY Piece: A Lesson On Assumption

Nothing gets us in trouble more than the word, ASSUME, followed by its offspring, ASSUMPTION. Assuming has gotten me in a little trouble now and then. What about you? What about the manager of Starbucks in Philadelphia? Or the two non-coffee drinking gentlemen who I assume assumed something.

The Starbucks story has evolved since the day two men walked into a Starbucks in a posh neighborhood, sat down at a table and chatted. I don’t know for how long, but at one point they asked to use the restroom and were told the company policy was: customers only. After all, they hadn’t bought a cup a coffee or a bottle of water.

And so, the two gentlemen were asked to leave by the manager, did not, and were told if you do not, the police would be called, which apparently was okay with them because they stayed until the police arrived. The Philadelphia cops asked the two gentlemen to leave and, again, they refused, according to the news report.

Even after the polite policeman said, “C’mon guys you gotta go or we have to arrest you,” they still stuck to their seats, like sticky Starbucks coffee and were arrested, without incident, as they say.

Here’s where the word assume reared its troublesome head in the City of Brotherly Love. The manager supposedly was following company policy, but it was assumed by the two gentlemen the manager was race profiling. No one knows, but many others also assumed…

The demonstrators outside Starbucks assumed the two gentlemen were treated differently because they are black. The police were following department policy, but the defenders assumed the arrests were made because of race – protestors said as much.

And this week, the two men, whose charges were dismissed, appeared on ‘Good Morning America’ and said they resisted leaving with police out of fear for their very lives. It was a huge assumption on their part, as we know, and they lived to tell about it and were reunited with their loved ones. The national ABC news team nodded sympathetically. Other commentators joined in and now we have a stain on Starbucks, and a racial profiling and an anti-police story.

To right the wrong, to save the brand, Starbucks fired the manager and plans to shut down their nationwide coffee shops for a day, next month, to train their employees about overcoming overt racial bias and, more importantly, the “subconscious bias” that lurks in their heads. It seems like the correction is based on an assumption that everyone is biased.

The verb, assume, according to Collins dictionary:If you assume something is true, you imagine it is true, sometimes wrongly. And if mistakes occurred, they were assumed to be the fault of the commander on the spot.”

If nothing else comes out of this, other than an awareness of how often we assume things…lots of things. Let’s not also assume everyone knows the right thing to do in America, which is — treat everyone you know with respect, black or white, old or young, rich or poor, friend or foe.  -PW