Color Me Starbucks


When I started my self-syndication business a few years ago, I needed to collect the contact information for every editor in the nation. It was a daunting task made even more difficult with the lack of internet in my home at that time. So, I went to McDonald’s nearly every day to use their Wi-Fi.

Visiting every newspaper’s website in the nation is extremely tedious. Some make it very hard to find the contact information. I understand not wanting to be spammed, but it’s like some newspapers don’t ever want to hear from their readers. But, I’d sit at McDonald’s, sometimes up to six hours at a time collecting this information. Sometimes, I only bought a cup of coffee. Know how many times I was harassed for loitering? Zero.

Maybe nobody bothered me because of my sparkling personality. Maybe it was because they really didn’t mind anyone hanging out for hours without giving them business. I saw quite a few other people using their Wi-Fi without purchasing. But maybe, the reason I wasn’t bothered was because of my white privilege.

There are not a lot of white people who admit to having white privilege. On the contrary, you often hear a white person say they know what it’s like to be a minority because once, they visited a foreign country, walked through a different neighborhood, or was the only white person in a restaurant or at a party. Bullshit. Even when you are the only white person in a place, you’re still white when you leave. You do not face a lifetime of discrimination in a nation with a long history of disparity in treatment and justice. At the very least, if you’re white then you have an extremely low chance of being arrested for sitting at Starbucks.

Yes. Starbucks. That liberal Utopian franchise that’s setting an example for other corporations to follow for social responsibility.

The corporation has instituted environmentally friendly policies like using wind energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to clean water projects globally. Partners, which are what they call their employees, join community projects, like tree planting.

One former employee, er, partner, described a problem with the company and said to Shaun Frankson, a business strategist who also blogs, “All the pieces for a great culture were present. We all were told exactly how to live the company values. However, management failed to live by example, so quickly each employee started to deviate from the desired culture and create subcultures based on each branch managers behaviors.”

Maybe, that’s the problem at the Philadelphia Starbucks that had two black men arrested who were waiting on a friend before ordering. Perhaps the sub-culture at that location is, black is suspicious, and I’m not talking about the coffee.

The location of this Starbucks is in a very ritzy part of Philadelphia. It’s two blocks away from a luxury apartment building where rent can go as high as $10,000 a month. And yet, while making up only three percent of the population black men account for 67 percent of stops by the police. This is not a subculture. This is national.

Starbucks is going to close every single one of their more than 8,000 stores for an afternoon in May to provide training to their employees to treat all of their customers alike, even the black guys.

I’m not sure all the racial ills of this nation can be cured in a single afternoon, or if it will make anyone victimized feel better, but at least it’s a start. Maybe the entire nation should shut down for an afternoon and learn to treat everyone the same.

Even the black guys.

Here’s the video.

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