Starbucks announced Tuesday that it will close down a number of stores on Sunday, May 29th so that employees can attend a “racial-bias” training.
The training will span almost 8,000 U.S. locations and will be provided to about 175,000 workers.
The trainings come in response to a Twitter video that went viral last Thursday depicting the arrest of two African American men in a Starbucks store. The men, after being told that the bathroom was for “paying customers only,” sat down at a table in the store to wait for a friend. When that friend arrived, he found six police officers handcuffing his friends—despite their lack of resistance.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
Protesters swarmed the Philadelphia location the following day, chanting, “Anti-blackness anywhere is anti-blackness everywhere.” One woman poured a cup of coffee onto the street. In addition to these in-person protests, the backlash on social media sites has been massive. The original video has garnered over 167,000 retweets amd 228,000 likes. #BoycottStarbucks also trended on Twitter.
In developing the curriculum for the bias training, Starbucks representatives announced that they will be consulting national experts on the issues of racial bias and racial profiling. This includes President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, former United States Attorney General Eric Holder, and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt. The training has accompanied other efforts to reestablish goodwill, including a meeting between Starbucks higher-ups and local Philadelphia community leaders, firing the Starbucks manager who called the police, and arranging a personal meeting between CEO Kevin Johnson and the arrested customers for a personal apology.
Johnson, who has been CEO of the coffee empire since April of 2016, also issued a formal public apology to the men in question via a video posted to the Starbucks website.
“I want to begin by offering a personal apology to the two gentlemen who were arrested in our store. What happened and the way that incident escalated…was nothing but reprehensible,” Johnson said. “These two gentlemen did not deserve what happened and we are accountable. I am accountable.”