Starbucks just announced they will close over 8,000 stores to conduct “racial-bias education training” in reaction to the backlash they’ve received since a store manager called the police and had two black men arrested for trespassing at a Philadelphia location while waiting for a third man without yet ordering.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson flew from Seattle to Philadelphia and spent time “listening to the community” and personally apologizing to the two men before announcing what he called, “the first of several steps.” The training will take place in stores across the nation on May 29 for its 175,000 employees. The curriculum is being developed in conjunction with input from local and national experts including; former US Attorney General Eric Holder; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Heather McGhee, President of policy center Demos; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
Videos of the incident have gone viral, the store where it happened was temporarily closed and a boycott of Starbucks is being organized. The fate of the white female manager is still unclear. She left the job while an internal investigation continues but whether she quit or was suspended is uncertain. A protester carried a sign outside the store yesterday, “Is She Fired or Nah?”
The closing of the stores is a dramatic step in reaction to the protests. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s Chief Operating Officer and a black woman, said as the mother of a 23-year-old son, she found the cellphone videos “painful to watch.” In a video message, CEO Johnson said, “I will fix this!” Let’s hope he does.