Robert E. Lee Statue, Racism, and Caribou Coffee

Every weekday morning I get coffee at Caribou on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Its near the bus stop I get off at. I’ve been going there for several months and enjoy the coffee.

About one month ago I overhead one of the guys working there talk about writing for The Carolina Review, a conservative student publication at UNC – Chapel Hill. The night before Hardball with Chris Matthews show at Memorial Hall he mentioned writing some critical articles about Sen. Edwards. Coffee Guy said a buddy was going to give him tickets.

Sure enough when we were watching Hardball that night the same Coffee Guy was sitting on the stage with all those students behind Sen. Edwards. He was starring into the camera shaking his head at Edwards responses. I half expecting him to hold up two fingers behind Edwards head like bunny ears. It was a very John 3:13 moment. (If you look about 16 seconds into the YouTube video you can see him. Goto the above Hardball video link.)

So last week I got to talking with the Coffee Guy about stuff. He mentioned his sister lived in Richmond, VA. I told him I grew up there. I mention a bunch of things like I went to VCU. But never did I engage him in a political discussion. I just wanted coffee. I decided to live in peace with a fellow Chapel Hillian. I wasn’t going to hold this man’s political views against him. No problem right?

Well this morning the Coffee Guy said his sister has seen a NAACP protest at the Lee Monument in Richmond. He exclaimed it was a shame. I blurted out, “I completely disagree. I think they should tear down those statues.” The Coffee Guy was surprised and said he was “sorry I felt that way”.

“So should they leave the statue of Authur Ashe up?” he asked. Instead of answering that I asked him to take the race component of the statues out of the conversation for a moment. “Consider the death of all the white people’s husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters, etc. during the Civil War. Those statues are glorifying war and death. That’s wrong.”, I said.

He proceed to question me about it. I told him that I really didn’t want to go there because it might make me not want to come back to Caribou. He thought maybe we could debate it another time when he wasn’t working. I just smiled and walked out.

One of the strongest forms of protest modern Americans can do is deciding where not to spend money. I wonder if the Coffee Guy’s boss values his free speech over the money I spend there every week?

This occurrence has convinced me to join the NAACP. My efforts to appose racism are strengthened.

2 thoughts on “Robert E. Lee Statue, Racism, and Caribou Coffee

  1. By "a John 3:13 moment" I meant when someone who promotes a cause at a live TV event. This is a interesting bit of culture jamming. One of the most famous examples is the Rainbow Man. He used to wear a rainbow wig and hold up a sign at sporting events that said only John 3:13. John 3:13 is a Bible verse that says "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…". Sorry if it was too esoteric of a reference.

  2. Thank you for posting this personal story.

    I don’t want to censor folks from stating their honest opinions, but I also want local businesses to know if they have employees that are offending customers. i can’t say I’m a regular customer like you are, but I am probably even less likely to go to Caribou now. Plus they’re a chain, now you haev a great reason to patronize a local business instead.

    I followed the link, but I’m not sure what you mean by “a John 3:13 moment.” Do you mean that he’s trying to get his ideas on camera by being in the crowd? I guess shaking his head was his “sign.”

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