10 Things Starbucks Could Do to Combat Racism

by Jeff Adachi

Since a video depicting the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks went viral, Starbucks has issued a written apology, CEO Kevin Johnson has met with the men, the store manager who called police has been fired, and the business announced it will close 8,000 stores May 29 for racial bias training. This is a great start. So what else could a global company valued at $50 billion do to combat racism? Plenty, but here is a list of 10 ways to begin:

1. Give their employees the experience of volunteering with anti-racist organizations and participating in diversity exercises with the public they serve. These activities could include discussing racism with children and customers, or inviting people to join them online to take Harvard’s Implicit Association Test or learn about civil rights history using iCivics.

2. In 2015, Starbucks launched a campaign titled “Race Together” to encourage discussions of race through stickers and writing on coffee cups. The company pulled the plug on the campaign in a week after receiving criticism and mockery on social media. It’s time to bring it back.

3. While no one can speak for the two men when it comes to fair compensation for being falsely arrested and jailed for nine hours, Starbucks should make a large donation in the name of the charity of each man’s choice. In addition, Starbucks can donate to other organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP , Black Lives Matter, and other groups that have worked to mitigate racism in the U.S. Starbucks can devote a portion of its sales to benefit such organizations for a period of time.

4. Create a new training program using the experience of the two men arrested as a teaching tool. Document how the employees react to the training, and how further incidents like this could be avoided by treating all customers with respect. Require all employees to undergo implicit bias training and to take the Implicit Association Test.

5. Invest in programs and projects that help Americans understand how racism affects our daily lives, choices and access to the basic things we need to survive and thrive as human beings. From the arts, to documentary films, to student leadership programs, Starbucks could help produce programming to educate Americans on the impact of having positive race relations. Grants could be awarded to organizations willing to take on this work, similar to how Starbucks’ Opportunity for All initiative in 2017 provided educational opportunities for young people.

6. Provide a physical space where ordinary people of all ethnic backgrounds can hear different perspectives on race. Panel discussions, neighbor meetups or film screenings open up new ideas and allow people to find common ground on tough issues.

7. Explore strategic partnerships with organizations dedicated to showcasing African American excellence as well as telling the difficult history of police-minority interaction, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

8. Recruit and hire formerly incarcerated people who have firsthand experience with the perils of overpolicing, racial profiling, and mass incarceration. In addition to providing jobs to people who most need them, this expands the perspective of coworkers and the general public. And people with this sort of insight don’t call the police on customers.

9. Provide clarification, consistency and transparency surrounding policies so everyone knows customer service does not include profiling and policing customers or unnecessarily involving law enforcement in non-criminal matters.

10. Provide education for all employees on the overcriminalization of America, which puts well-meaning citizens — particularly black men — in danger of being arrested for innocuous conduct.

Starbucks has demonstrated a particular genius at getting millions of people all over the world to drink their coffee. Imagine if it applied the same acumen to constantly reinventing ways to combat bias.

Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco Public Defender

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