Nilson Dos Santos, who is black and a Brazilian-born resident of Sydney, Australia, interviewed for a barista job at the inner-city café Forbes and Burton, but was apparently turned away because of his race. Owner Steven Hu, who reportedly moved to the city from Shanghai less than a year ago, was apparently shocked and surprised by Dos Santos’s skin color when they sat down to chat on Sunday. “But you’re black?” he asked, before adding, “my customers are white. I don’t think they’d like to have their coffee made by black people. That’s not part of the coffee culture. You’re African.”
The proprietor tried to explain his stupid policy. “We need to offer good service at this café and I think the coffee culture is more about white people,” Hu reportedly said, before Dos Santos, who has nine years’ experience as a barista under his belt, resisted a sharp impulse to punch the guy in the face and instead ended the interview right then and there.
“I thought that if I just left and closed the door, he’ll do that over and over again to everybody else that comes,” he said. Instead, Dos Santos went the public-announcement route. “I stood in the middle of the café and said, ‘Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother everybody but I just asked for a job and he told me that I can’t because I’m black and shouldn’t make coffee for white people.’”
The move triggered an exodus of disgusted patrons, led one employee to quit on the spot, and prompted a tidal wave of boycott threats and more old-fashioned threats. Steven Hu, in the meantime, has taken several opportunities to reinforce his horrible point of view and says he was “just being honest.” (A local news station says Hu told them that “most baristas were either white or Asian, saying he was just trying to provide his customers the best service.”) The café has since been “flour-bombed” and the business has been singled-out online by everyone from Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner to the guy who regrets he’ll no longer be getting his afternoon flat white from Forbes and Burton. The country’s Fair Work Ombudsman is now investigating, and meanwhile, Dos Santos, who has repeatedly said he doesn’t want any harm to come to Mr. Hu, is still looking for a barista gig.