Starbucks Coffee under fire for racist incident in Philadelphia


The Starbucks corporation held workshops for its employees in stores across the country on May 29 to address prejudice.

Sydney Kass, Staff Writer

A recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks has brought the topic of racial discrimination back to the forefront of American controversy and conversation.

According to the New York Times and CNBC, on April 12, two African American men, who were waiting at Starbucks for a meeting, asked to use the restroom.  Instead, they were told to leave; the manager claimed that they needed to buy something and could not stay without doing so.  When the two men declined, the Starbucks employee called the police, who then arrested the customers without asking what the problem was or reading them their rights.

In the end, Starbucks decided not to press charges, and the Philadelphia prosecutor declined to charge the men because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed.”  As a result of this incident, Starbucks’ reputation has declined.

Many blame the incident on racial discrimination and profiling, since both customers were African American and did not commit any crime.  In light of this event and similar occurrences in the past, Starbucks will close all of its 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 to provide racial bias training to over 175,000 employees.

“During that time partners [employees] will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” said the Starbucks Newsroom.

However, Starbucks’ sincerity is being called into question by Americans throughout the nation.  Should we take what Starbucks says at face value?  Are Starbucks employees undergoing anti-discrimination training to reduce the presence of racial bias or to help with the company’s public relations issues?  Will this education be effective?

Some think Starbucks actions are disingenuous; they believe that legitimate concern for the issue would have warranted racial bias training prior to the occurrence of the defaming racial incidents.

“I think that Starbucks is doing this just to make themselves look better because [the company’s leadership] don’t care,” said senior Danie DiRuggiero.  “I think it was an incident that got the company a lot of pushback, and as a result, they just want the media to sound good because, if they really cared, they would have been doing the training from the beginning.  This [the training] is just a reaction to an issue.”

Other students believe that if Starbucks was sincere in its intentions, then there would not have been a need to publicize the day of training.

“If they wanted racial bias training, they could have done that without having announce it,” said sophomore Nathan Hausspiegel.

Some believe that Starbucks will take the day of  training lightly—with a grain of salt—treating the experience as though it is something to do for the sake of doing.

“I don’t think they will take the issue seriously because Starbucks is already doing really well [in terms of business],” said sophomore Dani Lauria.

But regardless of Starbucks’ actual intentions, some good can come from training 175,000 staff members to be aware of racial discrimination.

“I think it [the training] is mostly for public relations, but there is a chance it’s actually genuine,” said junior Ethan Kaufman.  “Even if it’s completely for show it can have a profound effect.”

There is no way to know for sure what Starbucks truly intends to gain on May 29, but whatever it is, if there is hope that even one employee can learn to reduce racial bias in their life, Starbucks’ training at least can’t hurt.