Why Saying ‘One Bad Apple Doesn’t Spoil the Bunch’ About Starbucks Misses the Point Entirely

Illustration for article titled Why Saying ‘One Bad Apple Doesn’t Spoil the Bunch’ About Starbucks Misses the Point Entirely
Photo: Mark Makela (Getty Images)

I get it. You like Starbucks. You’ve been going there for, like, ever, and you really like your veni-vidi-vici triple-fat goose macchiato latte with a splash of waterfalls and shit. I get it. The fuckery at Starbucks right now, and even the company’s decision to close down for a day to “train” its employees on implicit bias, is super inconvenient when, really, you just want to caffeinate the way you always have.


Also, if you actually believe that one day of training will ever TRULY make a difference in folks who have had their whole lives to come up with their opinions, then I feel sorry for your mother, and George Parker and I have a bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y., we’d like to sell you.

But yeah, Starbucks. You love them. I love Target. I love lamp. I love going to places I love to go to. But you better believe that if Target shows a pattern of racially fucked-up behavior, they’re going to have to go. To where? I don’t know. It’s not about one bad store. It’s not about one bad employee at a store. It’s about systems and companies that are now being caught up in racialized shenanigans.

I think it’s awesome that Starbucks has tried to jump in front of this issue. But if you think for a minute that the incidents we see now are the first times employees at Starbucks establishments have acted in such a fashion, well, bless your heart. Just like with police shootings, the only thing that’s changed is that we now have the shit on tape.

Despite every attempt at equivocation and despite the typical unsatisfactory outcomes, it gets REALLY hard to argue with video. And more people are willing to tell the stories of what they’re seeing. Nobody’s afraid to film cops anymore, so you know that filming ignorance at a store or restaurant is going to happen. And if that store just so happens to be a place you love, deciding that “It’s just that one store” misses the point and obscures the very real concern over racial discrimination that occurs in this country on a daily basis.

Especially since NONE of us have any real issue condemning white people. I don’t. White folks get to white-folkin’, then I blame the entire culture and mind state of white supremacy. The same way white folks think all black folks are the same or look alike or are born criminals, one white person fucking up makes them all fucked up, right? Right?

I love reading comments pretending that we shouldn’t let one incident ruin the lot. Fuck that. Starbucks has been leading the gentrification charge for decades. Just because it’s not part of the chain’s marketing material doesn’t mean Starbucks hasn’t made itself the catalyst for “change.”


Starbucks doesn’t care about you. It cares about its money. While I’m sure Starbucks as a company is all about the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—and is working toward goals of social responsibility, a positive environmental impact and economic value, that doesn’t mean that those lessons trickle down properly to all of the franchises and locations. Hence the need to close 8,000 stores to have a training.

Something didn’t just go awry. Shit’s been awry. A one-day training shouldn’t be the end goal; this should be a start. And let’s be real: If this wasn’t on camera, does any of this strategic training happen? Probably not. Video makes it difficult to sit on your hands.


That’s why it’s important to not just say, “Hey, it happened at one store. I’m not going to blame the company.” Frankly, that’s stupid. Give somebody enough time and they’ll show you exactly who they are. In EVERY single business entity, if something goes wrong, the employee gets fired, but the company is on the hook. Who cares how much you like the company? When I get pissed at bad customer service by RandomDontae or SuperBecca at Xfinity, I hate them AND Xfinity. RandomDontae isn’t responsible for my check; Xfinity is. Fuck them, too, by the way.

There’s an odd irony in being able to acknowledge that a white person fucking up is a result of the system of white supremacy when you don’t know them or their heart individually. But we know that America has a fucked-up history with race, so it is what it is. Black liberation has been an uphill battle from the beginning. Why do we think that entrepreneurs and their employees won’t have the same issues? Why is it just one bad employee at one Starbucks and not endemic of the whole? People are flawed. People are employees. If it’s just one bad apple, then there’s no need for training. But we all know better than that.


But we’re ready to give Starbucks a pass? You gotta be nice for what to these niggas?

If you want to keep going to Starbucks, do you, boo. But don’t reduce this to one bad apple because you like their coffee. In any other arena, we’re ready to call out structural and omnipresent white supremacy when we see it. Now we just want to keep going to Starbucks.


I’ll bet it tastes good in those H&M pants, too.

But do you, boo.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



“I’ll bet it tastes good in those H&M pants, too.”

This right here. Because somewhere in these companies, someone does know better. I do not believe that in the year of our Lord 2018 that not one single white person in the entire H&M company said that putting a black child in a shirt with the word “monkey” on it was a really bad idea. This crap is happening on purpose. You cannot buy the kind of publicity that H&M got for their “faux pas.” But my black ass hasn’t been in their store since because I believe down in my bone marrow that they took that picture and published it on purpose to get free publcity and to send a message to their primarily white customers.

I can count the number of times I’ve been to Starbucks because their entire business model has always struck me as being rooted in anti-blackness. They just finally got caught. And the only reason they’re doing something about it is because a white woman videotaped their racial harassment. And some more white people spoke up as witnesses. The fact that their white customers are upset is what is motivating Starbucks to take one whole day (big whoop!) to try to do something about the bigotry that their customers of color face. White people having to witness racial harassment is more upsetting to companies than black people having to experience racial harassment.