Starbucks received tremendous backlash and calls to #BoycottStarbucks after it announced employees are prevented from wearing accessories or clothes featuring messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to the backlash, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a statement apologizing to his employees and announcing a new initiative in which half of Starbuck’s locations would be converted to “White Only.” The remaining locations would remain integrated and allow employees to support Black Lives Matter publicly.
“We believe everyone deserves the right to freely express themselves,” said Mr. Johnson at the re-opening of a new “White Only” Starbucks in Simi Valley, California. “But it’s also important that our customers who don’t think that Black lives matter have a place to buy coffee without being hit over the head with statements in favor of basic human rights.”
The Avocado asked Starbucks’ founder and former CEO Howard Schultz whether he saw it as problematic to prevent his employees from supporting Black Lives Matter and pandering to White insecurity about their relative stature in society, to which the billionaire said he didn’t see any problem. “It’s not like our White stores are better than the Black stores! They’re separate so our white customers feel comfortable. But they’re equal!”
“Separate but equal? You know that segregation is illegal in this country?” I asked, to which Mr. Schultz started to panic.
“Hey! Don’t do that. It’s not racist! The Black stores are probably actually better than the White stores because we play cool music like John Legend and James Brown and in the White stores we only play Brooks & Dunn. So, if anything, Starbucks is actually racist against Whites. Did I ever tell you how when I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 50’s I used to listen to all the colored bands? The Chantels, The Drifters, all of them.”
At this point, my fake journalistic training took over and I let him just continue to talk.
“Don’t turn this into some big gotcha because I am not racist! I grew up in Brooklyn, remember! Plus I have tons of Black friends. And thousands of Black employees. In fact, I bet I have more Black friends than you do. How many Black friends do you have?” he asked. “I know Magic Johnson. Do you know Magic Johnson?”
“It seems like Starbucks is promoting a very specific world view by claiming the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is political and therefore should be banned from your stores. It’s suggesting that the notion can be debated. And what that tells Black people is that Starbucks does not think that their lives matter,” I responded, to which Mr. Schultz told me I was out of line and reminded me that he knows Magic Johnson again.
“I am an ally of Black people,” he said, assuring me he has personally done lots for the Black community. “Remember when we created cups after we got caught kicking Black people out of our store and threatening to call the police that facilitated talks about racism?” he asked. “Those cups were my idea.”
This reporter asked customers at the re-opening of the “White Only” Simi Valley Starbucks what they thought of the segregated cafe.
“I think this is great,” said Simi Valley resident and LAPD veteran Officer Bubba Lee McClintock as he picked up his morning coffee. “Good coffee and some Brooks & Dunn are how to start the morning off right,” he said before heading down to the still-integrated Starbucks to ask its Black customers and employees for their IDs for no goddamn reason.