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Outrage After Sydney Café Owner Refuses Barista a Job Because He is Black

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By Anne Lu | August 19, 2014 11:28 AM EST

A Sydney café is under fire for refusing to hire a barista because of his race. The owner of Forbes and Burton café said his customers are primarily white who wouldn’t want their coffee made by a black person.

Daily Mail Australia reports how Nilson Dos Santos, a Brazilian-born naturalised Australian, was refused a job at the Darlinghurst coffee shop after the owner, only named Steven, gave him just one look.

Dos Santos, 39, was apparently told by Steven that he “only wanted locals” to work in his establishment. The barista’s skin colour was the deciding factor as the customers of the café wouldn’t want their “coffee made by black people.”

He wasn’t asked a question during the job interview. Steven only looked at him and told him he couldn’t hire him.

The applicant spoke to Steven earlier on the phone, replying that he is Brazilian when asked where he was from. But when they met in person for the interview on Sunday, Steven was allegedly surprised to see that Dos Santos wasn’t what he was expecting.

“When I came to the café for the interview today, he looked at me and looked surprised. He didn’t like what he saw,” Dos Santos related to the paper. “We sat down and he said, ‘but you’re black?’ I said ‘yes’ and he told me, ‘but 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.’”

Upon hearing why he wasn’t qualified for the job on Sunday, Dos Santos addressed the other customers at the café, asking them if they would have a problem being served by a black man.

The customers didn’t mind. And in a show of solidarity, many of them, including one crew member, walked out.

Other customers took their outrage online, urging other patrons to boycott the café.

Steven, on the other hand, was adamant that he did the right thing.

“There are a lot of white customers at the café and I think the clients here want local people, not African people,” Steven told the paper.

“We need to offer good service at this café and I think the coffee culture is more about white people.”

He further defended his action, saying, “In some people’s opinions, African people can’t make good coffee.”

Steven, like Dos Santos, wasn’t originally from Australia. He arrived in the country from China just this year. He needs to run his business for two years to secure an Australian visa.

Dos Santos is a veteran barista who has worked in Sydney for nine years.

“I have never experienced anything like that in Australia,” he said. “I love it here, I am free here, that’s why I chose to stay. I’ve always felt welcomed and accepted. For me, it was never a problem that I am black until today.”

Support for Dos Santos poured in on social media, with some of the café’s loyal patrons now boycotting the establishment. Although he is grateful for the touching messages he has received from the people, Dos Santos claimed he doesn’t want them to send abusive messages to the owner.

“I want to thank very much to everybody, everyone who gave support to me yesterday but I am against violence,” he said. “Please don’t do anything. It’s not by hurting him or smashing his coffee shop that we make the world better. Thank you so much but please don’t do anything to his business because he’s got a family, he’s got a wife and children as well.”

Instead of abusive messages and violent attacks, Dos Santos would pursue a case against Steven in court so the coffee shop owner would not be able to treat another person badly again.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said that they are investigating the incident and will be putting Steven on notice.

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