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Starbucks’ Plan To Take On Racial Bias

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.

Ijeoma Oluo, writer and author of the recently released (and excellent) So You Want to Talk About Race, framed the task ahead for Starbucks in this Medium post:

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.

On Point

Nike’s head of diversity leavesThe shake-ups continue at the company, which on Monday confirmed the departure of Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Antoine Andrews. Andrews, who joined the company in 2015, is the most recent of several executive exits. Last month, Trevor Edwards, who ran the company’s Nike brand, announced he will retire from Nike in August, amid allegations that Edwards, along with a vice president, protected subordinates who bullied women. “We became aware of some behavioral issues that are inconsistent with Nike’s values of inclusivity, respect, and empowerment,” CEO and Chairman Mark Parker said on a March 22 analyst earnings call. A recent memo from Nike’s HR, and obtained by CNBC, says the company “has failed to gain traction” in hiring women and other “minorities.”Diversity Inc.

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.
Politico

The two composers who lost the Pulitzer to Kendrick Lamar are thrilled and woke, y’all
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Slate

A plan to address sexual harassment on Capitol Hill is still stalled
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Fortune

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.
Fortune

Uber’s Bozoma Saint John on life, love, and diversity for all
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Thrive Global Podcast

Cardi B = Dolly Parton?
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Buzzfeed

 

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At the rate things are going here, all of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee.
James Baldwin