Woke Card Suspended? Is it Time to Forgive Starbucks?


Is it time to forgive Starbucks?? Ok before you jump to any “she doesn’t understand the struggle conclusions”, let me tell you why I ask the question. Last week when two brothas were arrested while being Black in Starbucks, we came out in full force. I’m very proud of us. Our collective voices, those Black and White gathered in a cyber freedom cry. We boycotted, we lifted our voices, we stood on picket lines and participated in shut ins. Bravo to us! I include myself in the us as I blasted links and created convo across social media. Plus my not getting my grande soy peppermint mocha- keep the whip was a great accomplishment for me, as I was tempted on three struggle days this week. But I was in the fight, I was taking the stand, I got my caffeine fix via other inferior means. But then this happened…

Starbucks responded, and responded unexpectedly well.

Out of all the times I can count, and the countless times I can’t recall, when a racial bias took place in a company, organization, or police department, there has not been a swift and appropriate response to the charge. There is hardly ever a validation that an injustice even took place to begin with. For centuries we have suffered under the “your daddy laid down, tied himself to the train tracks, and killed himself Brother Malcolm” lie of the ages. There has always been a crewd and cruel way that racists spin the truth, while somehow convincing many that their immoral crimes were never committed. I’m always left with the thought that if they’d just attempt to make amends by stating their prejudice, apologizing for it, and announcing what they will do to make it better in the future, it would give a starting point to build something new.  But it takes effort to understand and validate Black pain, right? Well that never happens in cases like this, until now. In response to Rashon Nelson’s and Donte Robinson’s arrest, Starbucks did everything that I’d ever wished any organization would do in this situation. 

Starbucks did not come out and make a weak deflective public statement trying to show off as an apology. Starbucks apologized and then appeared across social and traditional media to proclaim that this incident should have never occurred. That’s big because most companies would have stood on policy alone and never acknowledged the racial motivation of targeting these two men, who were only “guilty” of exactly what everyone else was doing that morning, using Starbucks free Wi-Fi and tables and chairs. Countless patrons do this daily and may or may not purchase anything. And my new best friend Missy Depino, the White lady who recorded the incident, said openly that she had not yet ordered anything, yet was not questioned, let alone arrested. Starbucks recognized the dymnamics here and directly acknowledged why 911 was called on the Black men and no other patrons that morning. They acknowledged that White people would not have been treated so cruely. They acknowledged that there was no need for an arrest and that the arrests were only made because the men were Black. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before, that acknowledgment still has me a little speechless.  And then Starbucks took the extremely insightful next step to speak to the root of the issue, calling out systemic racism. Stating publicly that it was the anchor in this manager’s decision to have these brothas arrested. Hearing the words systematic racism out of the mouths of a major corporation heads is like being struck by lightning in the same place twice. Electricity is very real, but to view it is pretty close to never.

Please refresh my memory if I am forgetting a time when any of this has EVER happened after a situation like this. It sounds like Starbucks is taking full accountability. Now granted I was still skeptical when Starbucks first responded to this incident. Even with the announcement of their stores closing to offer training on racial bias, I still was not convinced that they were not simply attempting to restore their name with their shareholders, not their reputation with #BlackLivesMatter sign holders. But then came the one, two, three knockout punch.

  1. The manager who had these men arrested no longer works for them, and that works for me.
  2. The Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with both men and apologized to them personally. Plus the second person in command over the Starbucks corporation, the COO, happens to a Black woman named Rosalind. I mean she gets street cred just on her name alone, but I digress. Starbucks hires voices of color at top senior levels, which makes them more amiable to hear the outcry from the streets. That’s big because if you’re not present in the room, no one can hear your voice.
  3. For the knockout, Starbucks’ clapback game is strong. Many trolls came out on Twitter this week in protest against Starbucks, claiming that their outreach towards the men victimized in this incident was unwarranted. Well Starbucks responded, and offered enough seats to fill a stadium. I swear I heard claps in between the words Starbucks tweeted. Calling one troll by his name, “Brice! Let me tell you what you not gonna do!” Ok Starbucks didn’t say those words, but the intent was felt in their response. (See pic.) They were not going to let anyone deflect, spin, or convolute what happened here. They called out every false statement, leaped on every claim of this being one isolated incident, and stopped every accusation pointed back to the men who were the victims, they called out every troll. I was like dang, maybe Ms Rosalind- Second in Command is sending these tweets herself. Any company that is willing to go toe to toe to proclaim truth against race baiters in this harsh, tRump driven, divisive, bitter Twitter war space, I give mad props to.

So again I ask, is the boycott over? We have good reason to be skeptical of an American corporation’s intentions. 400 years of suppressed oppression will do that to you. But is it possible that we are so accustomed to being invalidated that when validation comes we don’t recognize it?  Down my checklist on how a company should handle racial bias and discrimination, Starbucks has passes with a solid A. This heinous occurrence was indeed as mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney said, “to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.” Yet Starbucks is doing a good job of taking on the charge to deal with it on a corporate level. So Black people, let me know when I can return to getting my grande mocha with my woke card fully in tact.


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