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W. Kamau Bell on Starbucks Incident: ‘We Have to Stop Pretending This Is About One Coffee Shop’

For CNN host Don Lemon and award-winning comedian W. Kamau Bell, the racist Starbucks incident signaled a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, as the debacle was just one of many that minorities face at establishments nationwide.

During a Tuesday appearance on “CNN Tonight,” Bell revealed that he was once kicked out of the Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley, California on his birthday.

“I got kicked out because they thought that I was ‘harassing’ my wife and my 13-week-old baby,” he told Lemon. “And I talked to my wife for about a minute. I met her and a friend at this coffee shop, but they told me to leave because someone had complained about me being there … I was afraid they would call the cops.”

Bell referenced the recent incident involving two African-American men who were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week as they waited for a friend without having purchased a beverage. The incident sparked protests and arguments that white patrons were doing the same thing, but weren’t arrested. Starbucks officials said the manager who called the cops “no longer works there” and the company’s CEO has since apologized to the men.

“No one called the cops on you, right?” Lemon asked. “And no one mistakenly thought you had a gun. Did you worry about those things?”

Bell said he was fearful because the incident happened in 2015, around the same time Ferguson teen Michael Brown, 18, was gunned down by the police.

“Here’s the thing that is so sickening about it — the reason why I don’t think the cops were called is because my wife was right there, who is white and she goes ‘That’s my husband, we are together. I’m his wife,’ ” he said. ” … I think that probably her white skin actually probably took some of the heat out of [the] situation, which is sad, but true.”

“That’s why we have to talk about Starbucks,” he continued. “It’s a much bigger company than this Elmwood Cafe. They are just going to wait for the heat to die down and go back to business as usual … Until America, and specifically American white people are willing to confront and participate in America’s history and legacy of racism and current day racism, like the white woman who took the video did, we’re still going to be here.”

Hear more of their discussion above.

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