Starbucks incident indicates larger issue of racial profiling in service industry

A Starbucks in the Nathan Hotel, Hong Kong (pictured above). After a Starbucks employee unjustly called the police on two black men, it is evident that racially motivated actions are far more widespread and nationwide reflection is necessary (Daniel Blume/creative commons).

An event occurred in a Philadelphia Starbucks on April 12 that led to the arrest of two black men, according to the The New York Times. This event highlights the need for reform and awareness surrounding racism in customer service.

“Two young black men named Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested and forcibly removed by police from a Starbucks café in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia” while trying to enter the bathroom according to New York Magazine.

This action was decidedly motivated by racism and Starbucks’s executive chairman Howard Schultz did not shy away from this fact.  

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason that [police] were called was because [the patrons] were African American,” Schultz said, according to The Washington Post.

The unjust arrest inspired “protests, calls for a boycott of Starbucks, an apology from CEO Kevin Johnson and racial-bias training for all employees at company-owned U.S. stores and the corporate offices,” according to USA Today.

While it is absolutely shocking that “racial-bias training” is necessary in the 21st century, this is obviously the case since racial profiling and bias-related incidents are far from uncommon. 

In response to this issue, Starbucks has decided to close its stores on May 29 for this training, according to The Washington Post. While many feel that this training is simply a public relations ploy, it is necessary for the company to take action. Training employees puts the blame of what occurred in their store back onto them, not black individuals. 

In addition, Starbucks’s decision to shut stores down for an entire afternoon highlights how seriously they are taking this initiative, but their motives are unimportant as the outcome is what matters. The publicity and outrage surrounding this event will likely fuel more change in the sphere of customer service and the way employees are trained.

It is essential for individuals working in stores, restaurants and public places to know that their racism is not tolerated. Drawing attention to this notion and promoting equality in these public spaces is a necessary step in fostering greater equality and preventing instances like this one from happening again.

Furthermore, it is imperative that employees understand that their racially motivated behavior will have consequences. Individuals who hold these negative perspectives regarding race must be told by their employers that their views are inadmissible to protect the experience of all customers.

For this subsequent training to be set by Starbucks, a large company with a global reputation, will hopefully lead to an industry standard. Companies must make clear that racism and hateful actions are not acceptable from their employees. While Starbucks is making a small step in the right direction, it is devastating that such an event would occur to two innocent men. 

There is a long way to go when it comes to tackling racism in the U.S.; this one training exercise will likely not have as large of an impact as this country needs. That said, each effort in order to stop this erroneous way of thinking should be commended.

While many incidents of racism do not escalate to the level of that in the Starbucks, underlying racism exists in many establishments and companies throughout the U.S.

Furthermore, the events that occurred at this Philadelphia Starbucks represent a larger societal problem. Black individuals are unjustly profiled on a daily basis—even when doing something as simple as getting coffee—which is undeniably unsettling and unfair.