Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores on May 29 for racial bias training. The closing comes as a reaction to the event on April 12 in which two African American men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were arrested at a Starbucks for “lingering” too long, according to the manager. In reality, the men had merely arrived for a business meeting early at 4:35 p.m. allegedly.
One of the men stood up to ask if he could use the restroom, and the manager declined, stating that he and his partner had not purchased anything. The man sat back down, and moments later the manager called the police. The call was made only two minutes after the men allegedly arrived. The police arrived on the scene at 4:40 p.m. Backup was called by the first responders, and seven officers total came to the scene. The men were hauled off the premises in handcuffs and imprisoned after the police said that the men were causing a “disturbance.”
Surveillance video from within the Starbucks received widespread backlash with many calling for Starbucks to be boycotted. Over 60 fraternity brothers of Nelson and Robinson gathered at Starbucks to protest. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, deemed this event “reprehensible” and has since declared May 29th a day to be utilized specifically for racial bias training.
Many are deeming this response as “woke capitalism” or an attempt for Starbucks to revive their public image instead of taking real steps to make a difference. Of course this is true; however, I very much prefer this route to what we have seen in the past. More often than not, CEOs or spokesmen of major companies undergoing scandals will treat these happenings as isolated events, saying things like, “This would never happen anywhere else, this is absolutely not indicative of us.” In reality, these events are never isolated, and that approach is what allows racism and other horrible things to maintain its foothold.
I’m not saying that Starbucks’ response is going to definitively defeat racism altogether. However, they are absolutely making the best call possible. Some people need to be taught why racial biases are wrong. It isn’t enough for people to figure it out on their own. There needs to be racial bias training for all companies to ensure that employees don’t hurt someone or their company’s reputation.
The move to create a day for employees to learn about racial biases has gotten shot down by many already. Citing the notion of “woke capitalism” makes any moral thing they do obsolete. However, it should be a requirement of all employees of every company to be trained to understand racial biases, so they will be able to recognize them not only within themselves and in others.