credit: Jamie Kennedy

It was a lovely morning when I walked toward Starbucks at L Street and Vermont Avenue. I entered, prepared to have my morning tea, but I needed to stop at the rest room first.

I heard him before I saw him: a white guy on the cash register. “No, no, no! I can’t have you in there,” he said when he saw me walk in and head toward the bathroom with my suitcase and my blanket (to cover my legs). He left customers in line and spastically ran towards me shouting,

This employee’s behavior was inexcusable. He reached out to grab me when he got close.

I reacted by saying “Excuse me, what are you talking about?”

He stopped, returned to the cash register, and patiently waited on the patrons he had abandoned.

It is sad that in the year 2016 we still have people like this with eyes wide shut. Too many people’s minds are conditioned to judge others outright. People with unstable housing are usually still taxpayers like you. But, ignored and forgotten, they are not given the same level of respect, if any at all.

It has gotten to the point that some people feel it is imperative to stop others from sitting idly. Those others are too often targeted through racism, stereotyping and profiling. I was soon to be a paying customer, but because I “looked homeless” I was not given the chance. However, I witnessed three other well-dressed folks enter and go straight to the restroom with no trouble from the staff.

I generally receive respect from all Starbucks around town. I brought this incident to the attention of the woman in charge that day at Vermont and L. She attempted to apologize on behalf of the employee – which was not her place. She asked him to apologize to me, but what I got was half-hearted and meaningless.

No one else made any comments or inquired as to why the cashier couldn’t allow me to use the bathroom when this happened. So he probably felt that he was doing the right thing. I implore you, please don’t witness and accept the dehumanization of another human being if something similar happens around you. This same treatment could eventually reach your own doorstep.

Low-wage workers can labor for 40-80 hours per week and still live precariously. Missing a couple of day’s labor can put your rent and mortgage on the line. If you lose your job, things could really go badly. Then you are propelled into the ever increasing ranks of the homeless. Let’s not wait for that to happen.

We/I/you must raise our voices to create lasting change through future generations and prevent the suffering we now live with.