On April 14th, the revelation that two black men had been arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for not ordering anything sparked outrage, causing the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks to trend across the internet. In the wake of the backlash against the company, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued an apology, pledging to train the company’s employees better. And yesterday, April 16th, the Starbucks CEO continued to atone for the incident, meeting in-person with the two men who had been arrested.
A company spokesperson told the Washington Post that Johnson had indeed apologized in a private meeting on the 16th. Johnson had pledged to make the meeting in his initial apology statement, and he reaffirmed his desire to make amends with the two men on a Good Morning America appearance on the 16th. During his appearance, the Starbucks CEO also said that he would ask them for help in making sure nothing like this happens again.
“I’d like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through,” he said on the segment. “Finally as we’re working to solve this, I’d like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way to solve this issue.”
Johnson also said “what happened to those two gentlemen was wrong,” and called for Starbucks employees to receive unconscious bias training to prevent future incidents. Yesterday, demonstrations have been held at the Starbucks store where the incident took place, with many calling for the manager of the store to be fired. And today, April 17th, a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed to Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI that the manager was no longer at the store, although the spokesperson did not clarify if she still worked for the company.
The Starbucks CEO published an open letter addressed to customers and employees on April 14th in which he called the arrest of the two men a “reprehensible outcome” and promised to better train employees on when police assistance was needed.
What happened at that Philadelphia Starbucks was absolutely unacceptable. And while the Starbucks CEO’s apology and meeting with the two men are both steps in the right direction, this occurrence shows that unconscious racism is still a problem in the United States. We need to be better.