In the light of a viral video that shows two Black men (Their names have not been released at this time) being arrested at Starbucks in Philadelphia, has prompted the company to make a radical decision. All U.S. stores will be shut down on May 29 so employees can have racial-bias education. The two men who were arrested, were doing what thousands do every day, waiting at a Starbucks to meet someone. Only this time the store manager called the police and the men were arrested for trespassing. The charges were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.
Instances, of racial bias are nothing new but what has changed is the public's tolerance for companies not taking action. We are used to hollow apologies and then it's back to business as usual, so Starbucks' move to take action is being met with positive feedback. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson did apologize and extended an invitation to the two men for a face-to-face meeting to apologies in person. In a statement he said:
I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it. While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.
The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion. We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.
The closing of the nationwide stores and training of all employees is a massive undertaking. It will cost Starbucks millions in revenue (which is a small price to pay to earn the public's trust once again), and include curriculum by race relation experts Bryan Stevenson, (Equal Justice Initiative) Sherrilyn Ifill,(NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund), Heather McGhee (Demos), Jonathan Greenblatt (Anti-Defamation League) and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Executive chairman of Starbuck, Howard Schultz, recently sat down with CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King to talk about the arrests and how the company plans to take action:
I'm embarrassed, ashamed. I think what occurred was reprehensible at every single level. I think I take it very personally as everyone in our company does and we're committed to making it right. The announcement we made yesterday about closing our stores, 8,000 stores closed, to do significant training with our people is just the beginning of what we will do to transform the way we do business and educate our people on unconscious bias.
It will cost millions of dollars, but I've always viewed this and things like this as not an expense, but an investment in our people and our company. And we're better than this.
The training will be incorporated into onboarding all new employees.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
On 5/29, we'll close US company-owned stores to conduct racial-bias training to address implicit bias & prevent discrimination. We're taking a hard look at who we are as a company. We’re ashamed & recognize that racial bias is a problem we must address. https://t.co/xIYc75BJPj— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 17, 2018
In a series of tweets, senior writer for Rolling Stone, Jamil Smith noted the closing of the stores and the new training is a step in the right direction but certainly the public needs to continue to hold corporations accountable.
On the afternoon of May 29, @Starbucks will close all of its more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States “to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores." This is a positive step. https://t.co/XrCO7Mue6d pic.twitter.com/BSzIVOotFe— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) April 17, 2018
I say that the @Starbucks anti-bid training is a positive step because I didn’t expect them to take any steps. The trainings, effective or not, are somewhat beside the point. Starbucks knows this can’t happen again, and its employees should, too, if they hope to keep their jobs.— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) April 17, 2018
Saying that it’s a positive step for a company to realize its culture needs to change—and that the Philadelphia incident may be a sign of something more systemic—is not a signal to stop pressuring them to make that change.— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) April 17, 2018
While many see the step as positive, there is a reluctance to trust.
So Starbucks are closing for a day of racial bias training? It’s not something I’m going to applaud BUT it is better than an empty social media sorry statement. Other companies/institutions should follow suit tbh.— Tobi Oredein (@IamTobiOredein) April 18, 2018
If the training is not followed up by clear measurements and employee expectations -connected directly to job performance-then one day won’t make much difference, @starbucks.— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) April 18, 2018
I’ve done this for my employers. I know what I’m talking about.
Awaiting your response.
I hope you understand this topic is more than a one day training. Hopefully you are committed to on-going training.— Michael Richardson (@fcnpastor) April 17, 2018
Others were willing to give Starbucks the benefit of the doubt.
I think you're handling this well. We must face the hard fact that this is who American culture is. I guarantee every company has implicit racists operating and doing these same things everyday. This is what POC have always dealt with.— Christel (@ChristelJGW) April 17, 2018
Things aren’t always going to be right because we are not perfect. The reason why we must always take responsibility to make it right when it goes wrong!🙌— kimberlee Lenz (@LouisKimberlee) April 17, 2018
I am a loyal customer that worships my morning coffee from Starbucks all over the world daily. I was immediately shook and angered by the events in Philly. I was willing to never walk into another Starbucks if this wasn’t Fixed! Great start & good job.Respect should be always!— James Buford (@jcboneon1) April 18, 2018
Thank you, as an employee, you don’t understand how much ignorance I have came across from other employees. It may not quickly eliminate it, but it’ll definitely help— Arrjay (@IamARRJAY) April 18, 2018
There was hope other companies would follow Starbucks lead.
I'm proud to work for a company that actually cares. While this never would've happened at my store, I'm still glad the entire company is taking action. Wish more companies did.— Miss Laura Renée (@LauraReneeWest) April 17, 2018
Our company had a training on Dignity and Respect by @Candi Castleberry-Singleton. It was tremendous and our employees loved it. It’s received the most positive feedback of any training we’ve had. I highly recommend companies do these types of employee trainings.— #NeverAgain (@Thursdays1Ed) April 17, 2018