Starbucks has been known for making equality one of the company’s core values, like in 2015 when they came up with the “Race Together” campaign where baristas would write the phrase on customer’s cups in order to encourage conversation on race, so it came as an even bigger shock when just this past month two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for their friend.
The men had not ordered anything while they waited, and this prompted the store manager to ask them to leave, which the men refused to do. The manager then called the police and had the men arrested and taken out of the store in handcuffs.
When I first saw Melissa DePino’s video of the arrest, I was furious, but upon rewatching, I saw a glimmer of hope. In DePino’s video, you can see Andrew Yaffe, the friend that the men were waiting for, asking the police why they were called, and if the reason was that they were two black men. Yaffe’s decision to confront the police about the arrest and call them out for their racism is crucial because it serves as an example for what other white people should do if they are faced with a similar situation.
Yaffe used his white privilege for good by demanding that the officers tell him why no one else was kicked out of the Starbucks for not ordering and by calling their actions discriminatory. Since he is white, it was clear that he would not be arrested for talking back to those police officers, so he seized the opportunity and attempted to have his friends freed.
DePino stated in the caption for her video that the other white people in the Starbucks were also wondering why they had never been told to leave a Starbucks for doing the same thing as those men. It is important for as many white people as possible to use their privilege to speak up when they see injustice because they are the ones that are given power in our society. Unfortunately, white people typically only listen to other white people, so they have a better chance of getting through to someone that is racist and stopping them from being discriminatory.
Even though the two men were still arrested despite the efforts of the other customers, the CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, has also taken steps to use his privilege to prevent the same situation from happening again. On May 29 Starbucks will close its 8,000 company-owned stores and provide racial bias training for about 175,000 workers. Johnson stated that “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities."
Starbucks is setting an example for other companies to make racial equality a priority and I think that is commendable. The public demanded action from Starbucks when the video came out of the men being arrested and the CEO heard their comments and took action quickly.
We should not be too prideful to take criticism in regards to race relations because there is room for improvement for all of us.