The Clarion

Starbucks controversy stirs debate

Company leads by example by closing stores for racial bias training

Protestor+Aurica+Hurst%2C+from+West+Philadelphia%2C+pours+out+coffee+in+front+of+Starbucks+at+18th+and+Spruce+Streets+on+Monday%2C+April+16%2C+2018+in+Philadelphia%2C+Pa.
Protestor Aurica Hurst, from West Philadelphia, pours out coffee in front of Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Monday, April 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Protestor Aurica Hurst, from West Philadelphia, pours out coffee in front of Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Monday, April 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Protestor Aurica Hurst, from West Philadelphia, pours out coffee in front of Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets on Monday, April 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Megan Behnke, Staff Writer

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On April 12, a Philadelphia Starbucks came under scrutiny after an employee called the police on two black men who refused to leave the café after using the restroom without having purchased any drinks. They were just waiting for a friend to meet them there.

A video surfaced online of the arrest, and many customers wondered exactly what the men were doing that prompt the call to the police and for the officers to arrest the two.

It’s one of the many situations that have been happening all too often lately involving discrimination.
It may be the 21st Century, but discrimination has not changed. There are people out there who will find any reason to call the police on someone who is of a different ethnicity.

Two days after the incident, Starbucks posted a statement to their social media pages, saying, “We apologize to the two individuals and our customers and are disappointed this led to an arrest. We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores. We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores.”

They then announced that they will be closing their U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct a racial-bias training to address implicit bias and discrimination. To have something like that happen, and for Starbucks to think that with a simple statement and bias-training would solve it, is a little ridiculous.

But even after announcing the store closings, some customers have expressed that they don’t like that the coffee giant will be closing for a day, saying that it’s out of their way and it’s inconvenient. This goes to show that people don’t care about discrimination and what happens to people who are the victims of it.

Another incident involving discrimination also happened on April 12, when 14-year-old Rochester Hills, Michigan student, Brennan Walker, missed his bus that morning and started walking to school.

According to HuffPost, he then “thought knocking on a door to ask for directions would help,” not realizing it would nearly cost him his life. He told Fox 2 Detroit, “I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door. Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High. And she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun. I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

Luckily, the bullet missed Walker. Not even kids who need directions to school are safe from discrimination.

The couple didn’t even hesitate to grab the gun and yell and run after him. That kid feared for his life because of the color of his skin.

With Starbucks closing for a day, it’s them saying that they know what’s going on. And they have a plan to make it stop.

Maybe everyone, companies and individuals, can take some notes from Starbucks and truly figure out how society can change. It will take years or decades, possibly centuries, society finds effective ways to combat discrimination.

People need to feel safe. They need to feel like they have the freedom to ask for directions, without being afraid they’ll be arrested or worse than that.

What happened at Starbucks is something that no one will ever forget. Two black men got arrested for doing nothing. If they were white, the police would not have been called. If a white boy came up to a house to ask for directions to school, the adult would be more than happy to show him. But because he was black, he was shot at.

This is happening all too often. It’s something that shouldn’t be happening.

Yes, it’ll take a while until we will live in a truly free and peaceful society. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work toward it.

Starbucks is using a full day to train and teach their employees in hopes that what happened in Philadelphia doesn’t happen again. It’s just one step toward a peaceful world.

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Starbucks controversy stirs debate