Starbucks Coffee has announced the chain will be closing 8,000 stores in the United States for one day to conduct racial bias training with the company’s employees. The training was seen as necessary after two African-American customers were arrested last week at a Philadelphia Starbucks, sparking outrage. The chain will close the stores on May 29th to offer the training to 175,000 employees.
The two men were arrested after asking to use the store’s bathroom.
An employee refused the request because the men had not bought anything. Then, according to officials, the situation escalated. The two men sat down and were asked to leave. After the men refused to go, an employee called the police. The police then handcuffed and arrested the two men. The men were two real estate brokers waiting for a friend, according to Melissa DePino, who recorded the video and posted it to Twitter.
Ever since I posted this, I’ve had white strangers AND friends say “there must be something more to this story.” That assumption is a big part of the problem. It does happen. All the time. Just not to you and me. Believe it and speak up.
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 13, 2018
The arrests prompted backlash and people started posting #BoycottStarbucks on Twitter.
Many people protested at the Starbucks in Philadelphia’s Center City with Black Lives Matter signs — and Starbucks listened. Two days after the incident, CEO Kevin Johnson released a statement calling the outcome “reprehensible.” The apology lays out 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.” Johnson also states, “Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.” The employee who called the police no longer works for Starbucks.
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
The decision to close the stores marks a big moment of change for Starbucks.
While the company attempts to brand themselves as a socially accountable business, they’ve had a few missteps in the past. Remember the ‘Race Together’ cup campaign from 2015? Johnson has been open about his stance on progressive issues, like gun control and same-sex marriage. However, like many major companies in the U.S., the company clearly still has steps to take to avoid racial bias. Maybe now other large companies will follow suit to avoid future incidents and educate their employees.
Also published on Medium.