Reasons to (not) Celebrate
and promised to require mandatory training for all of its employees in thousands of stores.
Well, that memo didn’t reach all Starbuck employees because one of them in Madison hadn’t even heard of the incident and is certain their store is not doing any
specific cultural sensitivity training. Is there anyone who thinks that this same incident cannot happen in Madison with its high arrest of Black men?
While visiting my 104 year old Aunt in Georgia, my cousin, a hospice nurse, would go by Starbucks every morning for coffee. She says she is still debating whether to
ever return because she is tired of giving her business to companies who are unjust to Black people. She asked the rhetorical question, “Why is white America afraid
of Black men?” I replied, “And why would police arrest men for doing nothing but sitting in a coffee shop?”
Police are allowed a lot of discretion in determining arrests, clearly both the Starbucks manager and Philadelphia police were in agreement that to be Black men
warrants arrest, and the rest of us wouldn’t have known about this if their arrest hadn’t been recorded and posted. Yet, there are few times that European Americans
(white people) are ever charged or arrested for hate crimes.
Seeking Tolerance & Justice Over Hate (STAJOH) is a Madison committee composed of representatives of government agencies from the City of Madison, Dane
County, the Madison Metropolitan School District, the State of Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as community-based agencies throughout
Dane County. They have a website on the definitions of a hate crime. The information is vague and allows a weak interpretation of a hate crime that 1) Not itself a
crime, but a penalty enhancer, 2) Increases the potential penalty of crime, 3) Must be a criminal act — battery, disorderly conduct, etc — before there is a hate crime
and 4) Hateful conduct alone is not a hate crime, unless the conduct itself is criminal.
Thank God for academic graduations, beginning with elementary schools all the way up to colleges and
universities. We celebrate student achievement despite the limitations on the number of tickets available to
attend these graduations. One would think that in Madison, given the poor graduation rates of students of
color, more tickets would be made available as an incentive to keep on graduating until a university degree
I still thank God for giving families a time to celebrate hard work and perseverance since there has not been
a lot of reasons for celebrations across the US. There are more tragic shootings in schools, increased
arrests of African Americans for little or no reasons and more reported incidents of racism and anti-Semitism.
Snow in April in Madison made it seem like summer was far, far away. Summer has finally arrived and I
hope that warm weather and people being outside even more, will not cause more racist experiences for
people of color, Jewish people, and immigrants.
Most have read about the incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks where two African American men were
arrested, not buying anything at the coffee store while waiting for a friend. Starbucks gave a public apology
There have been two publicized incidents of hate crimes in Madison. One was in 2017,
when police gave a charge of a hate crime to two of three white people in a verbal and
physical attack again African American Trent Jackson, a former Badger athlete. District
Attorney Ismael Ozanne sent the case to the Community Restorative Court. (This was the
first time a hate crime had ever been referred to this court and meant that the charges
could be erased).
Recently a white Madison man was convicted of a weapons charge but found not guilty of
threatening an African American man and youth with the firearm during a racist incident
last August by an all-white jury of eight men and five women (including an alternate) in a
case under Judge William Hanrahan. The African American man and youth had a gun pulled
on them by one white man, and were called racial slurs by both white men; a father and
son, but police did not charge them with a hate crime despite the allegation of repeated
racial slurs and the white man admitting that he had pulled a gun on them. He did not have
a permit for the gun. Judge William Hanrahan allowed the prior arrest records of one
African American man, Tahjmalyk Porter, to be discussed during the trial, but the prior
arrest records of the defendant, Paul Sopko, involving drug and weapons charges, were
not admitted, neither was his son’s Facebook page which is a tour through white
Hanrahan says both lawyers agreed that Sopko’s previous convictions were too old.
Porter was in jail on a probation hold for battery and domestic violence and was brought to
court in a jail uniform and with handcuffs. A witness to the case said that even worse was
the treatment of the African American youth, who goes to school outside of Madison, and
had to travel several times to testify. Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, present at the proceeding, is
quoted as saying the teenager was treated badly by Judge William Hanrahan while the jury
was out of the room and especially when the youth had difficulty in being sworn in.
This case was decidedly more serious than being arrested in Starbucks, or even Trent
Jackson’s physical attack, yet there was no hate crime charged and a young person
witnessed first-hand how African Americans are disrespected. This whole incident is a red
flag about the increasing lack of justice in Madison.
While we are celebrating graduations, we must also be teaching our children how to
survive attacks in an increasingly racist America and to be assured that when you stand
up for what is right, you have already won, no matter what an all white jury wrongly
decides. Thank God for graduations to celebrate our youth.