Are We Boycotting or Nah?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been dealing with an internal struggle trying to determine if I should be boycotting Starbucks. While I do not regularly go into Starbucks for coffee, I love their prepackaged coffee. I drink Starbucks at least 3-4 times a week and I really do not want to stop. It is my favorite coffee! More importantly though, I am a Black woman every day and am tired of seeing my Black brothers and sisters being mistreated without any recourse for their offenders. The constant images and videos of Black people being killed, arrested, belittled, and poorly treated is truly overwhelming. Therefore, when I see two Black men being arrested two minutes after entering a Philadelphia Starbucks, it immediately ignites a flame in me and I want to act. On the other hand, I realize in the grand scheme of racism, this could be an isolated event that just happened to go viral. So where do we draw the line? When is it time to march, sit in, stop shopping, and/or boycott?

Talking to my friends…

Talking with some of my friends, who also love Starbucks, about the situation, they raised three points for me to ponder. One, every Starbucks that they have ever visited had a diverse staff. I cannot deny this. Although, I do wonder about the diversity amongst their store managers. I have been to Starbucks in many different states and types of communities and there are usually all types of people working there. I even spent about two hours in a Starbucks in D.C. with a group of friends after leaving dinner. We were reminiscing about old times as if we were on someone’s couch in their home and no one said a word to us. It doesn’t take two hours to drink a medium coffee and all of us did not order something.

Another point that my fellow Starbucks lovers stated was that this situation is not a “pattern of behavior” for the company. These two men being arrested is an isolated occurrence and boycotting for one such instance is an overreaction on our part. Hmmm…. I am not sure this point is valid. How many times do we have to be mistreated before we act? Who determines that value? Furthermore, just because we have not seen this happen before does not mean that it has not happened.

My friend in my head, Loni Love, said on her talk show, The Real, that when you are in a private business and someone asks you to leave, whether you are right or wrong, you must leave or you could rightfully be arrested for trespassing, which is a felony. This is one of those laws that seem to disproportionately affect Black people. We can get arrested for peacefully waiting for a business partner yet other people could go completely ballistic and police officers will spend hours trying to calm them down. Based on my experience, this law seems to be applied subjectively. Also, Loni’s comment makes me think about how Black people are culturally trained to be obedient in hopes that we can stay under the proverbial radar and live to fight another day even though we have numerous examples of us doing the “right” thing and still being dehumanized. It’s a catch 22.

The CEO of Starbucks responded…

The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, immediately apologized via twitter, met with the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who were arrested, and announced it will close 8,000 stores on the afternoon of May 29th for anti-bias training. He also refused to give the name of the manager who called the police, stating that the company is responsible for not making their expectations clear. Some believed he was “falling on his sword” to protect the manager who no longer works for Starbucks.

Is Starbucks’ response enough? What more could we ask for?

While I appreciate their quick response and their upcoming anti-bias training, I still have some burning issues.

  1. Anti-bias training sounds good but is one afternoon enough. Not to mention that they are closing stores in the afternoon, a time when they probably will lose the least about of money, but how did they determine that one afternoon of training is enough? Why isn’t this training going to become a regular part of their practices? Will employees hired after May 29th receive this training?
  2. Where is the anti- bias training going to come from? I know a lot of companies that could use it. “The Starbucks website reads that the training will contain “Curriculum to be designed by nationally recognized experts and will be available for other companies to use.”” So, are they going to create an anti-bias curriculum in a month, teach it, and then sell it? Are they really going to try to profit from the unnecessary arrest of my people? I need to know.
  3. I really want to know why they feel it is best to protect the identity of the manager who called the police on two Black men two minutes after they entered the Starbucks? We do not even know if she was fired or quit. That’s annoying.

After conducting my own research, I am not comfortable supporting a business that is still working on policies for how to treat Black people. I know taking this stance is argumentative because it would probably be difficult to find companies who have not had instances or policies that negatively impacted their Black customers but I am going to take it one day at a time; one company at a time. Until further notice Starbucks you have joined the list of companies that I will not be investing in, along with H&M and Papa Johns. Is this a boycott? I really do not know but I need a break from them… What about you?

Interested in reading other people’s opinions? I found the articles below interesting.




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