Seattle Police are investigating an ugly assault at the Broadway/Pike Starbucks Friday morning as a hate crime.
According to police reports, a man spat on a black man and woman and used racial epithets during an assault inside the coffee shop Friday morning just before 11 AM. The suspect was gone by the time police arrived.
CHS learned about the attack from a blog post by one of its victims — Dr. Bob Hughes, an associate dean at Seattle University:
My awareness of the incident, as I later explained it to the officer who took my statement, started with me realizing that my right hand was wet. We were in a Starbucks and there was lots of liquid around. My cortical brain told me that most likely someone spilled something. But then, I heard someone behind me say something that sounded like, “fucking nigger bitch.” My brain needed a new explanation. I turned and realized that a young White man in his early 20s behind me, neatly dressed with short-cropped hair with a dark-colored backpack, was directing this statement to my colleague. As I turned further to face him, he said, “That’s right fucking nigger bitch” again. He walked to the door and walked out. The incident didn’t really register with me, even as he walked out. What had happened? I turned to my colleague and asked if she knew the young man. She had never seen him. He went outside and stood at the window yelling more comments that we could not hear and finally walked away down the street. It was as he stood at the window that my brain started to make sense of things, as I realized that the liquid I initially felt on my hand was his spit. He had spit at my colleague, as it turned out, twice. This young man looked like a thousand other young college students I’ve seen over the years. Clean cut, well dressed. He was also visibly angry. He did not present as mentally disturbed or under the influence of any substances. He directed his anger at my colleague, having never met either of us. He saw two African Americans sitting in a Starbucks and decided that it was okay to assault us.
Dr. Hughes tells CHS that the incident was likely captured on video and that police were provided with access to the surveillance.
But Dr. Hughes confronts a larger issue in his post:
While the society has created hate crime laws and has professed an expectation that this kind of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, clearly for this young man those weren’t enough discouragements to overcome whatever misogynistic and racial hatred and ignorance fuel him. And, on reflection a few hours after the incident, more than that young man’s actions were disturbing to me. This was a very public act in a very small space. Everyone at that café heard the incident and many saw it. However, only one patron came up after the incident. That woman apologized to us, saying that this should never happen to anyone, and she offered to be a witness. Also, the manager came to assist us to clean ourselves and to help file the police report. Everyone else at the café sat silently or went on with their business. In a truly post-racial world, that would not be how things work. In a post-racial world, that kind of violation would mobilize every person in that space to actively resist an assault on two people – an assault that only happened because of our race, and because of the gender of my colleague.
“My guess is that the next time, this young man will be more violent and his next incident will be more brash,” Hughes writes. “Unstopped, antisocial behavior like this escalates. And he lives in a world right now where he felt safe taking these actions. But when incidents like this stop, or people who witness these incidents involve themselves as actors against such acts, then maybe we’ll be moving toward a post-racial world.”
The case remains an open investigation according to SPD.