Starbucks is wasting no time addressing the uproar after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store last week for the crime of being black in public. Their actions have been, thus far, honest and inspiring.
“I’m embarrassed, ashamed. I think what occurred was reprehensible at every single level. I think I take it very personally as everyone in our company does and we’re committed to making it right,” executive chairman Howard Schulz this today on “CBS This Morning.”
Schultz joined Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and members of their leadership team in Philadelphia this week, to meet with employees and members of the community, the company said in a statement.
Their first official response will be a radical act of exclusion, but this time, for all Starbucks customers. The company will be closing some 8,200 company-owned stores and corporate offices for several hours on May 29 for company-wide racial bias training – that’s 175,000 people. It’s hard not to appreciate the symbolic elegance, and the multi-million price tag, of a nation-wide time out.
The company has also been casting a wide net, looking for expertise on the local and national levels.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund is one of the experts who will be advising the company on its bias mitigation efforts.
She signed on to help because she was convinced that the company’s response was bigger than public relations. “I was interested in Starbucks’ stated commitment to recognizing the real issues of racial discrimination and being serious about trying to tackle it, and also trying to play a leadership role that others can follow,” Ifill tells NPR. But she warns, “This is part of a very, very long story about African Americans and public accommodations and how we are treated in public spaces. This can’t be a one-off. ”
It won’t be, Schultz has assured the public. And this is where the enormity of the problem we’re asking Starbucks to solve– or any corporate entity, for that matter — comes into sharp relief.
Here’s just one example: The neighborhood where the two men were arrested has the highest racial disparity in pedestrian stops in the city of Philadelphia, according to the ACLU. While the black population of Philadelphia’s Ninth District was only 3%, black pedestrians made up 67% of police stops in 2017, their research found. “Black Philadelphians face daily indignities when they are simply trying to go about their business. This incident shows that black people can’t even ‘wait while black,'” Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania Reggie Shuford said in a statement.
Diversity work means holding a mirror up to a society that polices the behavior of black children starting in pre-school, that systematically denies black adults access to jobs and credit markets, that will shrug off the extra-judicial harassment — including death — of black people whose only crime was driving, walking home or operating in the informal economy. The Starbucks employee who called the police that day lives in a world where black and brown people are always suspects. She must be all kinds of shook these days – why all the fuss now? But for the men, it was just another day inside their skins.
That’s a lot for a coffee chain to unpack.
The general idea is this: racial bias is a complex system of assumptions, privileges and oppressions that has worked its way through every major part of our society. It has endured for hundreds of years because it is only easily seen by those at the ass-end of it. Those of us who bear the brunt of racial bias and oppression every day end up having to not only battle that bias and oppression, but also convince everyone else that it even exists. It is very hard for the majority of the population to see how the everyday businesses, agencies, and organizations that we interact with are perpetrating harmful racial bias, and even harder for the majority of the population to see how they are perpetrating harmful racial bias themselves. It is hard to see how something that can feel like the air you breathe to most, can be the storm you drown in to others.
Despite the enormity of the task, I remain cautiously optimistic. Starbucks has been unusually dedicated to justice and social transformation, and have baked purpose into their business decisions. It’s a dedication that will come in handy now.
|Give us your tired, your poor, but not your abused women|
|U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviewing whether or not domestic or sexual violence should be recognized as a legitimate reason for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. At issue are Central American women (and families) who come to the border, afraid to return home due to “pandemic” sexual violence, gang activity and traffickers. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that more than 40 percent of migrants seeking asylum are families and children. The “review” has immigration advocates very worried.|
|The two composers who lost the Pulitzer to Kendrick Lamar are thrilled and woke, y’all|
|While classical music fans were upset over the loss, the two finalists for the Music prize are both fans of the rapper’s work. Michael Gilbertson and Ted Hearne were acknowledged for their works, Quartet and Sound From the Bench respectively, and gave thoughtful, separate interviews about their loss to Slate. Both think the rapper is creating wholly original music. While at Yale, Gilbertson heard a grad level talk on Lamar which explored “the theological and conceptual narrative depth in his work,” he said. “It changed the way I listened to his work.” And Hearne, whose work is more political, sees this as the first step in redressing the centuries-long exclusion of black and brown artists in classical music. “Especially in America, there are incredibly important musical thinkers who have been kept out of classical music spaces for a long time,” he says. Click through to hear clips of their work.|
|A plan to address sexual harassment on Capitol Hill is still stalled|
|Senator Kristen Gillibrand [D-NY] is re-upping a plan to “fix” sexual harassment on Capitol Hill – one which has languished for too long, she says. There has been no bipartisan bill to help victims, even after a spate of Congress members from both side of the aisle have resigned after harassment scandals. The Congressional Harassment Reform Act, which has yet to pass the Senate, eliminates taxpayer-funded settlements and mandatory “cooling off” periods before claims are filed, and mandates regular surveys of staffers. “Congress has a sexual harassment problem—and isn’t taking it seriously,” she says. “If we can’t clean up our own act, how can anyone expect Congress to do the right thing for victims and survivors in the rest of the country?”|
The Woke Leader
|How a “genuine confidence that you belong” leads to wealth advantage for white families in the U.S.|
|John Rice, the CEO of nonprofit Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and a former member of Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, has a must-read opinion piece that defines the emotional underpinnings of the depressing wealth gap that exists between black and white families in this country. White people inherit something more valuable than money, he says. “They grow up never questioning whether they belong in the educational institutions, careers, and networks that are the breeding grounds for comfortable lives and wealth creation.” What still needs to be discussed, however, is the violent backlash that occurs when some members of white society lose that bedrock confidence.|
|Uber’s Bozoma Saint John on life, love, and diversity for all|
|Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global Podcast is up and running, this episode featuring a conversation with Uber’s chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John. They talk about Saint John’s remarkable life in Ghana, fashion, moving to the U.S. and the tragic death of her husband. But she addresses her growing political voice and diversity in Silicon Valley very directly. “I was making a joke the other day, but it’s actually true, which is that I want white men to go into their offices and look around and say, you know what? There’s a lot of white people here. I feel uncomfortable in this situation,” she says. “I want you to go in to your boss and tell them there’s just too many people who look the same.”|
|Thrive Global Podcast|
|Cardi B = Dolly Parton?|
|Writer Sandi Rankaduwa is here with a hot take you’re not going to see anywhere else, but it’s more nuanced than it appears from the headline. In “Cardi B is Rap’s Dolly Parton,” she explores the public preoccupation with both women’s bodies, one that borders on a fetishization designed to diminish. Neither artist is here for it, she says. Both have used humor, acting chops, and business savvy to create a cult of personality around themselves, and “both [are] conscious of their vocal instruments and use them with careful calculation,” she says. “But perhaps most importantly, they help redefine their oft-stereotyped and maligned subcultures,” reclaiming their bodies and their truths all the way to the bank. “What Dolly’s pride did for the hillbilly, for so-called white trash, Cardi B is doing for ratchet girls in the hood, for a certain type of black or brown woman who’s often imitated or ridiculed, for unashamed and self-proclaimed hoes.”|