Seldom do I like, comment, or even look at most of the posts or videos that are on my Facebook. But the video showing two black men in handcuffs being escorted by police out of a Starbucks coffee bar enraged me. I felt this was 1963 in Woolworths all over again. In 1963 black people could not sit down at a food counter in the South, eat a meal or even order a meal.
I was infuriated, that in 2018 two black men were asked to leave because they were trespassing- Trespassing in a Starbucks coffee bar. A place where people sit for hours hunched over a computer using free Wi-Fi and sipping on a cup of coffee. I was so irritated that I stated I would not step foot in another Starbucks or drink their coffee again.
This type of racism should not be happening. It definitely should not be happening in a business whose motto is to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time. I felt the actions of the employee who called the police, two minutes after these two men came into this coffee shop, exuded the policies of Starbucks. The CEO of Starbucks has proven that the employee’s action does not represent who they are.
Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks has apologized. He has apologized to the two men who were escorted out of Starbucks. He has gone on national TV and apologized to the community, and to their customers. He is putting his money where his apology is and closing all of his stores on May 29th to provide anti-discrimination training on racial bias. He even asked the two men that were arrested to help find a constructive way to resolve the problem. Mr. Johnson has also sought the help from former Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, as well as executives from the Equal Justice Initiative to put a curriculum together for the training. He’s hired Starbucks first female COO Rosalind Brewer.
Mr. Johnson has stepped up with actionable moments in his company and under his tenure to make a difference. 175,000 Starbuck employees are required to attend racial bias training on May 29th. This is his attempt to make sure employees understand the store’s values and mission without racially offending customers. Will this training make a difference? Who knows for sure? Is it too little too late? Do nothing is not an option for Starbucks. Maybe, just maybe the training will equip employees at all levels with steps they can take if confronted with biased situations in the future. Maybe the training will help employees understand what biased racism is, and that’s a start.
This is an actionable opportunity for all of us (Black and White people) whether we are coffee drinkers or not. On May 29th while Starbucks is closed, I hope we can all find some way to increase our awareness of racial biases and start a conversation that leads to something positive. Starbucks can’t do it alone. Maybe, just maybe we can use this as an opportunity to increase our awareness and make changes. I’m open for a face to face conversation on that day with my black and white Facebook friends. I hope other companies and even police training academies will step up like Starbucks.