A Starbucks customer in Walnut Creek, California, engaged in a racially charged exchange with two Korean customers on Sunday in a video that has gone viral. The video on Facebook showed the woman seemingly irate that the Korean customers were speaking in their native tongue.
Sean Lee, a business student at University of California at Berkeley, was tutoring a community college student, Annie, when the woman allegedly interrupted them for speaking Korean. Two Starbucks baristas defended the Korean speakers and appeared to politely ask the woman to exit. The woman, whose identity remains unidentified, refused to leave. Her refusal resulted in a call to the local police department, who then escorted her out.
At one point in the video, a voice can be heard telling the woman, “This is not the first time that you’ve bothered other customers.”
“I was tutoring an international Korean student today at a Starbucks in Walnut Creek. As she was heading to get her coffee, this lady screamed at her, ‘don’t you dare say that again,'” Lee said Sunday on Facebook. “She was berating my student for talking in Korean, and proceeded to demand that all immigrants speak English. We eventually called the cops and she was kicked out of the store.
“It’s all too easy to forget that racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are a real thing in this country, even in the Bay Area that so often touts ‘diversity,'” Lee added.
Part of the incident wasn’t caught on video, but Annie pulled out her phone to record the remainder of the exchange. The footage shows the woman repeatedly demanding for the Starbucks workers to silence the Korean speakers, but the employees are depicted defending Annie and Lee.
“I hate it,” the woman said to a Starbucks barista, who responded with “I’m sorry, but they’re allowed to speak their language.”
“You know what? President Obama said that everyone in America should speak English,” the woman, who was seated with her laptop, said before covering her face with a binder after realizing she was being filmed. “I don’t want to hear the language. You can sit and be quiet, fine, but I don’t want to hear your language. I don’t want to hear it.”
“I’m asking you to leave and if you don’t want to leave, I’m calling the police. That’s up to you,” a Starbucks barista said.
The woman responded, saying: “That’s fine.”
The pair continued to speak Korean from the time the recording concluded until the police arrived at the scene. Lee claimed that the woman was angered even more by their actions.
“As the video shows, our partners [employees] take great pride in making sure our stores are welcoming environments, where our customers enjoy a culture of warmth, belonging and everyone is welcome,” a spokesperson for Starbucks said in a statement to The Daily Meal. “We want everyone who visits our stores to enjoy their visit.”
The video has generated more than 795,000 views after appearing on Facebook. It has also received more than 1,400 likes and 290 shares.