Starbuck’s is a coffee shop with an identity crisis. One one hand, they do serve a whole lot of overpriced coffee, making them an example of savvy marketing tactics and ruthless business strategy.
On the other hand, however, they have been a ranting and raving maniac of corporate irresponsibility when it comes to the social issues that they’ve chosen to trade in. Their first big foray into nonsense was a bizarre choice to omit Christmas from their stores altogether, under the guise of some social responsibility to not offend people.
Let me ask you: When was the last time that you walked into a bar, saw people celebrating someone’s birthday, and were so offended that you had to leave? I’m going to guess your answer was zero.
How is a religious celebration any different? We’re all allowed to pursue happiness in the U.S.A…it’s literally written within our Constitution. Celebration is the physical manifestation of happiness, and so, celebrations are likely Constitutionally protected. (I’m no lawyer, just as a disclaimer).
So when Starbucks took up their Christmas crusade, they set themselves on a path that was neither excusable, nor was it American. Now, after a number of incidents of their employees acting, shall we say, less than tolerant, the international chain has been forced to unveil a grandiose plan for “sensitivity training” that some are saying was nothing more than police brutality videos on a loop and decades-0ld history lessons.
I spoke with the baristas separately on Tuesday evening after they attended the training at a Sheraton hotel with employees from about four districts in the region. Between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., they had sat with fellow employees listening to a few presentations, watching a number of videos, journaling, and occasionally talking to colleagues and session leaders in small self-guided groups. (Starbucks has made all materials from the training session available here.)
Both baristas told me that the training had missed the mark completely. Instead of addressing racial tension head on, the training mostly “beat around the bush,” said one of the baristas, a 24-year-old Latino man we’ll call Jamie. “I was really disappointed when I walked out of there because I was expecting so much more,” said the other barista, an 18-year-old black woman we will call Tina.
Jamie and Tina continued…
“The videos of cops knocking people down and fighting people were really disturbing,” Tina explained. “I told them I didn’t like the video and they told me they understood and that I was open to give my opinion.” What does watching videos about police brutality have to do with the situation that happened, Tina said she kept asking herself. “They went too deep into it and missed the point all at the same time.”
“At one point,” said Jamie, “a girl at my table actually had to get up and leave because video after video they showed black people being assaulted by police or black people being verbally assaulted and white people being racially biased toward people of color. It offended her. She left after that.”
The Training Felt More Like an African-American History Class
“We got too deep into black history and got past what I thought was the point of the session,” Tina said, pointing out that one of the videos they watched went back to lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s.
For a company who believes that they are on the cutting edge of the virtue-signaling world, Starbuck’s sure seems racially tone deaf.
Remember folks, hate begets hate, and living in the past isn’t going to ensure our future.