Starbucks Incident Has People in a Frothy Fury
After arrests and apologies, the coffee chain will temporarily close 8,000 stores for a few hours next month for anti-bias training
Starbucks announced Tuesday it will close more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct “anti-bias” education. The decision about the afternoon closure follows an incident last Thursday in a Philadelphia store, in which two black men were arrested after they refused to leave.
Commissioner Richard Ross of the Philadelphia Police Department reported that Starbucks employees said the men had asked to use the restroom. That request was denied, per company policy — the men had not purchased anything. When an employee asked them to leave and the men refused, the employee called 911.
The police arrived and also asked the men to leave. The police made their request politely, three times. Still the men would not leave, so the police took them to the station for processing. Starbucks quickly decided it did not want to prosecute.
But when a video of the event went viral, that’s when all of this really got messy.
"One employee in Philadelphia calls the cops on a pair of black men, and employees across the nation are ... assumed to be latent racists," said host Laura Ingraham Wednesday night on "The Ingraham Angle."
"If the coffee chain thought it was going to inoculate itself against liberal ire by being left-leaning, they were wrong," the Fox News host added. "Their progressive, supposedly inclusive identity just made them an easy target for protesters."
Horace Cooper, a legal commentator and co-chair of the Project 21 National Advisory Board, was a guest on the show, and he announced his organization would be taking action on the Starbucks situation.
"Our organization, this week, is going to be contacting the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and the Department of Justice. And we're going to ask them to see to it that any employer that is going to punish, penalize, or in any way interfere with the right of their employees to operate without detecting whether or not they have some unconscious bias will be found in violation of Title VII."
Journalist and OMG (Oh My Government) radio-show host Jamila Bey, also a guest Wednesday night, agreed with Cooper's initiative. She suggested Starbucks employ mystery shoppers to help the business uncover any racial bias that could be playing out in its stores.
"Starbucks is virtue-signaling," said Bey. She described the manager's reaction as "overkill."
"People have rushed to condemn one of the most liberal, left-leaning corporations in the country," said Cooper, noting there are precious few facts at this point as to whether the employee's call to police was racially motivated and whether or not any race-based ill intent is part of a pattern across Starbucks stores.
Comedian provocateur Bryan "Hotep Jesus" Sharpe also joined Ingraham to discuss his now-viral video, in which he trolled Starbucks into giving him free coffee by saying he was there to collect his "reparations."
"I am sick and tired of liberals using black people and making us look like victims, making us look soft with their liberal dogma. It is disgusting," said Sharpe.
To his point, the alleged victims in the Starbucks situation — the men who refused the employee's and police officers' request to leave — were arrested and then quickly released.
Now the employee who made the call to the police no longer works for Starbucks, according to multiple media reports. Could she be a victim in all of this? Could the whole matter be a giant misunderstanding?
Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, apologized and said he felt "ashamed" about the incident. "I think what occurred was reprehensible at every single level," he told Gayle King, co-host of "CBS This Morning." The anti-bias training he has in mind for employees "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," he said. "And we're better than this."
Some 175,000 employees will receive the training. The curriculum was developed by "nationally recognized experts." And who would they be? They include former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and several others.
"How just is it to subject all Starbucks employees to the high-paid indoctrination of the racism industry because of the actions of one employee?"
The program is "designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination, and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome."
Even with this massive effort, some folks are still not satisfied.
Tamika Mallory, a Women's March leader who is herself taking heat for her ties to Louis Farrakhan, is calling for a continued boycott of the coffee chain. She said the ADL — a Jewish advocacy group — developed the curriculum for the Starbucks training and contended the ADL is "constantly attacking black and brown people," in a tweet yesterday.
Ingraham summed up the situation with this question and concern Wednesday night: "How just is it to subject all Starbucks employees to the high-paid indoctrination of the racism industry because of the actions of one employee? ... We may be encouraging more mob takedowns of well-intentioned people or organizations or people who just make mistakes."
It will take more than a venti's worth of high-priced coffee to wade through that discussion.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.