Ahead of Starbucks' planned racial bias training later today that will see over 8,000 stores close their doors for a few hours, the company's executive chairman Howard Schultz sent out an open letter to customers. In it, he explained the events that lead up to it.
"We still aspire to be a place where everyone feels welcome. Sometimes, however, we fall short, disappointing ourselves and all of you," it reads, detailing the incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend. "The situation was reprehensible and does not represent our company’s mission and enduring values. After investigating what happened, we determined that insufficient support and training, a company policy that defined customers as paying patrons—versus anyone who enters a store—and bias led to the decision to call the police."
The training will revolve around making Starbucks a more inclusive environment for all customers and was revealed to include video messages from rapper Common along with company executives. "The incident has prompted us to reflect more deeply on all forms of bias, the role of our stores in communities, and our responsibility to ensure that nothing like this happens again at Starbucks," the letter continues. "Discussing racism and discrimination is not easy, and various people have helped us create a learning experience that we hope will be educational, participatory, and make us a better company."
There have been a handful of other incidents involving people of color at Starbucks, including bathroom access being denied to a black man while being given to a white man who had also not yet purchased a drink, as well as a racial slur being written on the cup of a Latino customer.
Hopefully, the training goes a bit better than their #RaceTogether campaign in 2015.