Starbucks’s Response To Racial Profiling Incident Should Be A Lesson To Other Companies

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. 

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. 

While many see the step as positive, there is a reluctance to trust. 

Others were willing to give Starbucks the benefit of the doubt. 

There was hope other companies would follow Starbucks lead. 

H/T: CBS, Yahoo Finance