No coffee today

Over 8000 Starbucks shops will be closed today. Water will cool, grounds will sit in the filters, creamers and flavors will remain in their bottles, and the mangled and misspelled names will not be written on cups. It is estimated that $12 million in sales will be lost.

Today is a day to learn about racial bias.

Before we jump on the cynical bandwagon to label this as a publicity ploy or as “too little, too late,” let’s congratulate Starbucks on doing something. Too many people and too many organizations – businesses, schools, churches – persist in ignoring rather than engaging the difficult and overwhelming topic of racism.

We came to this place because on May 2, 2018 two African-American men entered a Starbucks and sat down to wait for a friend to discuss a real estate deal. The white manger asked them to leave. When they refused (after sitting for a total of two minutes in a coffee shop where patrons are known to spend hours sitting, reading, conversing, and staring at their computers), the manager 911 as if some kind of emergency was taking place. When the men refused the cops’ request to leave the building, they were arrested.

Starbucks Corporation responded immediately.  The manager was fired, a public apology was given (a real apology, where guilt was admitted and responsibility taken), a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs was funded, and this day of racial sensitivity training was established.

Is it enough? Of course not. I know that because in the weeks since the Starbucks arrest, there have been several other incidences where people of color have been harassed, challenged, or even arrested while engaging in everyday activities.

  • A white woman called police to report an African American family having a barbeque at a public beach.
  • Three African-American artists being reported while renting an Air B and B in a predominately white neighborhood.
  • The black Yale student taking a nap in a public area of her dorm awoke to find campus police staring down at her after receiving reports of an “intruder”.

It isn’t enough, but it’s something. It’s one step on a very long journey towards awareness and the recognition of a serious, deep-seated problem.

If you don’t happen to be a Starbucks employee, how can you engage in racial sensitivity training? Seek out stories from those who have experienced racial bias. It isn’t hard. The stories are everywhere – read, listen, watch.

If the experiences you hear about are not your experiences – wonder about that. I have never been asked to leave a restaurant, never been pulled over by a police officer for no reason, and never been told that I don’t “fit in” because of my skin color. No one is scared of me or intimidated by me because of how I look.

In order to correct these injustices, I first have to be aware that they exist. I can learn and I can respond. All of these small steps – like an afternoon of racial sensitivity training – can add up to make a difference so that all of God’s children are treated with dignity and respect. Let us begin.

7 thoughts on “No coffee today

  1. Karen E Ziel

    This is a wonderful reflection Sue. My only question to Starbucks Management is should the manager of the particular franchise be fired for what amounts to “ignorance” before he or she or they have a chance to be trained, to become aware, to become more conscious of his/her/their own biases?

    I think suspended without pay and mandated to attend racial bias training etc., may have been a better choice. Fear is rampant in our culture and while we must work hard not to let ourselves be ruled by fear, it is work we do consciously. Fear is so culturally entwined with the body politic, that one can hardly blame him/her/them for being fearful – it is an unconscious response to what is often embedded cultural stimuli we are also unconscious of. Our work remains and we must remain vigilant, I have no doubt. But I am saddened to know that someone lost their employment.

    Lastly, I do give Starbucks some credit for doing this work and revenue will be lost. Yet, imagine what is to be gained!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fosteringyourfaith

      Karen, you make such a good point about the employee being fired. I think you’re right – a better choice would have been mandatory racial bias training. Speaking for myself, I am aware that I have much to learn – we need to take every opportunity available.


  2. Thanks so much, Sue. I am striving to provide a place for friendship and fellowship at my UCC church, St. Luke’s Christian Community Church in Morton Grove (a suburb of Chicago, to the north and east of O’Hare Airport). Yes, tomorrow night about 65 interfaith friends will join us in another Interfaith Gathering. Plus, we will share in an Iftar Dinner after sunset, and fellowship and friendship with our Muslim friends.

    It seems like just a little. However, our church is striving to show a warm welcome to all who would come. Please pray for this wonderful event. Thanks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fosteringyourfaith

      These sound like wonderful programs! I absolutely believe that all of our small efforts are woven together by the Holy Spirit to share God’s love and shalom. Well done!


  3. howardshapiro

    Well done and I love how you picked up on this – I just drive by a Starbucks and it is closed. Based on our skin color, our experiences of America are very different. How sad and how long this has been. I am not cynical. I applaud Starbucks for at least attempting to address the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill

    Ah, Pastor Sue – thank you for calmly and cogently discussing another difficult issue and best of all, offering wise advice about what we can do to make things better. Thoughtful as always, ever positive, your blog is a gift in this crazy world!


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