Remember Starbucks’ “Race Together” idea a few years back? The since-destroyed concept was that baristas at the high-priced coffee chain were to openly engage customers on race relations in the United States.
Ironic, then, that the company is once again feeling the social media flames and calls for a boycott over an incident at a Philly Starbucks in which two black men were racially profiled, harassed and arrested because a snotty barista wanted to flex her treacherous white privilege on them. The police, of course, readily complied.
The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, however, is not defending shit, calling the incident a “reprehensible outcome” and saying that he wants to meet with the two men—as much for damage control as to express his genuine regret, we’re sure.
Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers:
By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome.
I’m writing this evening to convey three things:
First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.
In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes—who is on the ground in Philadelphia—to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement. Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.
We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices. The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.
We also will further train our partners to better know when police assistance is warranted. Additionally, we will host a company-wide meeting next week to share our learnings, discuss some immediate next steps and underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity. I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day—which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.
Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.
The key-key is that Starbucks founder Howard Schultz probably deems himself a staunch liberal and has tried to position the company as such. Over the years, Starbucks has launched many initiatives in black and brown communities across the U.S.; it has offered health insurance and domestic-partnership coverage for part-time work since 1988; it has paid parental leave—even for part-time employees; and it pays a living wage to its “partners,” who also get stock in the company.
Pity that all of that goodwill can disappear over the actions of one colonizer in her feelings.