It’s hard to imagine that there are still white people today who need proof that there is inequality between the races in America. A lot of them are fond of saying, “Get over it!” The general perception is that Blacks are habitual whiners about nothing. It is as though some whites can’t see the truth even in the face of blatant racial bias. Such a case occurred recently in a Philadelphia, PA Starbucks coffee shop.
Starbucks is known as a place where people can go to hang out, use WI-FI, listen to music and meet with people. Coffee and snacks are the backdrop for this activity, and the company has made loads of money off of promoting this brand. This is why there has been such an outcry when a Starbucks store in Philadelphia had two Black men arrested for not immediately purchasing items. The two men allegedly wanted to use the restroom, but were not allowed because they had not purchased anything. Apparently, the store had a policy that stated restroom use was for paying customers only. According to witnesses, staff called the police to report that the men were trespassing when they refused to leave the store. Police arrived, handcuffed the men, and took them to jail.
Now, the average Black person could tell you in a heartbeat that the young men were victims of racial bias. Witnesses said they were not doing anything wrong. This would NEVER have happened to white men who had come into the store. Not surprisingly, this event was brought to the attention of the public because cellular phones were used to place it on social media. The blatant maltreatment of the men has outraged people. Many are staging demonstrations against the company. Starbucks, in response, has shuffled their cards quickly in order to offset the negative publicity generated by the incident. The manager responsible for the gaffe has been removed from the site, and Starbuck’s CEO, Kevin Johnson, according to an online Fox News article by Ron Todt and Jay Reeves, called the arrests a “reprehensible outcome” and said he wants to personally apologize to the men, saying the company “stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.” Moreover, Starbucks has moved to address the problem on a broader level. They have opted to close 8,000 stores on May 29 for racial bias training.
Interestingly, according to another online CNN article by Chris Isidore, Starbucks has a history of advocating for racial equality. In 2015, in the face of protests nationwide about police shootings of Black men, Starbucks launched what it called the “race together” effort, having employees write that term on coffee cups to try to engage customers to think and talk about racial issues.
Apparently, all of this is not enough. Some people are so outraged that they have vowed never to drink Starbucks coffee again. Moreover, they are calling for continued boycotts against the company. It is understandable that people would want to strike out against injustice, but there is also the issue of adopting the right strategies. Economic sanctions have been known to work in the past, and the fact that the company is scrambling to address the grievances demonstrate the power of organized protest! But what can be gained from these protests after significant concessions have been made? What else do protestors want?
One of the best take-aways from this situation is that there is power in organized economic efforts against discrimination. But there is another strategy that needs to be considered. It would be very effective to steer people toward Black entrepreneurs that offer the same services. Two such entities come to mind: Sip and Savor, and Bridgeport Coffeehouse, in Chicago, for example. Starbucks is already taking an economic hit for the transgression of employee insensitivity by closing its stores for one day. Let’s take that opportunity to support Black entrepreneurs. A Luta Continua.