- Starbucks is closing all stores across the United States on May 29 to “conduct racial-bias education” for workers.
- Response to the announcement of the closures was mixed on social media.
- Some applauded Starbucks, while others felt that the move was an overreaction from a “liberal” company or fell short of what needs to be accomplished.
In a decision that is sparking debate on all sides, Starbucks is closing all its stores nationwide in the wake of an incident in which two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia location.
On Tuesday, the company announced it plans to close its more than 8,000 locations in the United States for the afternoon of May 29 to “conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.” The training will cover topics such as “implicit bias” and “conscious inclusion.”
The decision to close stores for a training comes after footage of two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia location of the coffee chain went viral. Employees called the police when the men refused to leave the Starbucks after asking to use the restroom without having purchased any drinks.
Backlash was swift, with some customers calling for a boycott and other people of colour sharing similar experiences. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologised to the two men who were arrested and announced a review of the company’s training and practices.
Following the arrests, Starbucks’ perception level dropped to its lowest levels since November 2015, according to YouGov BrandIndex. According to the consumer-perception research firm, the response was similar to the backlash Starbucks received after its red holiday cups were seen as part of a “war on Christmas.”
“Since last Friday, Starbucks’ Buzz score [which measures purchase consideration and reputation] fell from 13 to -8 on Tuesday, a drop of 21 points in four days,” YouGov said in a statement. “When the 2015 Christmas cup incident occurred, Starbucks fell from a Buzz score of 11 to -9 in four days too, eventually hitting a bottom of -13 the next day.”
When Starbucks announced plans to close stores, debate exploded. Here’s what people are saying:
Responses have been mixed, with some people applauding Starbucks
Starbucks closing 8,000 U.S. stores to train 175,000 employees about racial and implicit bias is an excellent first step. A good concrete action. https://t.co/Ddbu91qROo
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018
The arrests of the two men in Philly, was awful. Many of us rightfully criticized Starbucks.
But @Starbucks & it’s CEO, are acting responsibly now. They deserve credit for apologizing + taking firm, serious action to address the problem and ensure it won’t happen again. https://t.co/RRyeyYsokc
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) April 17, 2018
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.
— ???? Science Cooperation Education Liberty Democracy (@EARTHHUMAN001) April 17, 2018
Others felt that Starbucks was overreacting
Starbucks is a perfect example of Corporate America overreacting. Diversity day? Give me a f*cking break.
— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) April 17, 2018
I'm a white person who was told I couldn't use the restroom at Starbucks unless I ordered something and I told him I wanted to wash my hands and I was going to order and they still wouldn't let me does that mean Starbucks owes me an apology
— Michael Parola (@michael_parola) April 17, 2018
While some felt that this was an overreaction to a one-off situation, many other black people shared similar experiences after the footage from the Philadelphia Starbucks went viral.
Temple University professor Bryant Simon said that, while working on a book about Starbucks, he witnessed “several” instances in which African-American men were not allowed in the stores’ bathrooms, while white customers were always allowed.
Some on the right felt that the closures are a prime example of liberal ‘over-sensitivity’
This Starbucks controversy is evidence that even if you bend over backwards to champion trendy liberal causes for decades, all it takes is one of your 200,000 employees to act poorly for the visceral outrage machine to turn on you anyway
— Griswold Christmas Vacation (@HashtagGriswold) April 17, 2018
This is what happens when you bend over backwards to appease the radical race-obsessed Left and they still aren't satisfied. https://t.co/47mN6t0Gmf
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) April 17, 2018
The oppression Olympics continue…
I think it's funny that Starbucks which is one of the most liberal companies are being eaten alive by their own.
Liberals are eating their own ???? ????Poetic Justice ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/QubMFMQvib
— Racy (@RacySicilian) April 17, 2018
Starbucks has long been a target of the right, due in part to the company’s progressive policies on issues such as immigration and gay rights.
Other people were confused or concerned regarding how the training would play out
Am I missing something w/ this whole Starbucks thing? U need to shut down all your stores for racial bias training? Black folks aren’t some alien species, my goodness ????????♂️????????♂️
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) April 17, 2018
Starbucks shutting down all its stores to teach employees about racial diversity. The same employees ordered to talk to customers about race in 2015. This is overkill. Just treat everyone with the same respect as humans and customers.
— Charles V Payne (@cvpayne) April 17, 2018
This news about a Starbucks closing "8,000 U.S stores” for racial sensitivity training is another CON GAME. It’s a big nothing burger. This is the same con game police agencies do when they engage in racial killings. Racial sensitivity classes mean
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) April 17, 2018
Starbucks said it was working with a number of experts to develop the curriculum for the training. Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defence and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former US Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, will be among the experts consulted, according to the company.
And, some believed that the police need to be addressed as well
if Starbucks has figured out an impactful way to educate ppl on racial bias in a single afternoon I hope they share their notes with the police https://t.co/8X8YGacgxh
— @PiaGlenn (@PiaGlenn) April 17, 2018
It's good that @Starbucks is giving all staff race trainings on May 29th..
But let's not loose sight of the real problem which is police accountability.
Also who is giving the training?
— Tiffany Dena Loftin (@Tiffanydloftin) April 17, 2018
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in an interview with local outlet Action News that the officers who arrested the men did not do anything wrong. Ross additionally said that the police did not wish to make the arrest after being called to the store by a Starbucks employee.
Starbucks’ long culture war
Starbucks has long been a lightning rod for controversies that extend far beyond coffee. Over the last few years, the company’s progressive policies have sparked a number of boycott threats from the right.
In 2017, some customers threatened to boycott the coffee giant after the company spoke out against the executive order barring immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US.
In late 2016, alt-right Twitter user Baked Alaska challenged followers to tell Starbucks employees that their names are Trump to “trigger SJW” workers.
And while he was campaigning in late 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump encouraged boycotting the chain for its lack of Christmas cheer.
Unlike most chains, Starbucks doesn’t typically shy away from discussing some controversial issues, including those related to race. In 2015, the chain received backlash after its “Race Together” campaign encouraged baristas to discuss issues of police brutality with customers – something many saw as a tone-deaf and overly simplified attempt to address issues related to racism in the US.
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