Nine Things to Do While Starbucks is Closed

By Erin and Heidi

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coffee cup

photo by Mark

Starbucks is in the news because they are closing next Tuesday, 29 May for a company-wide training on race. To quickly review in 2015 Starbucks launched a company wide campaign to start conversations about race. Baristas were supposed to write “Race Together” on cups, CEO at the time Howard Schultz (a white male) was front and center on the campaign. That campaign was short lived and fizzled faster than a Frappuccino could be made. In 2018 Starbucks is back in the news because a manager called the police on two Black men who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks, they hadn’t ordered anything was the excuse/justification the manager gave.

Here is a list of nine-things you can do while Starbucks is closed for their company-wide training.

1. Visit a people of color owned coffee shops or business. Spending our monetary and time resources at poc owned businesses is investing in communities of color. If you need suggestions of where to go check out this map by Equity Matters. It is an open source map so please add to it and edit it as needed (e.g. add or delete businesses that are now closed). Bookmark it and refer back to it so you can invest your dollars into poc businesses. Here is a Black owned coffee roaster, Mt. Tahoma Coffee Company, you can order online so no excuses for those of you reading in other parts of the internet world.

2. Read the previous Fakequity article on “We Can’t Train our Way to Racial Equity.” The short version is one-time training won’t ‘fix’ Starbucks or any other organization. The racism that launched Starbucks into the news isn’t isolated to coffee shops it can be found almost anywhere. Racial equity and undoing racism work is a lifetime commitment.

3. Learn about implicit bias. The Starbucks incident is not uncommon, the same behavior of calling out Black and Brown people happens everyday in grocery stores, and even in people’s own homes. Implicit bias and white supremacy are built into American society.

4. Acknowledge we have racial biases. It’s easy to point fingers at Starbucks, and say how terrible their implicit racial bias problem is, but the reality is that all brain science points to the fact that is it human to have bias. It’s easy to point out other folks racial bias and it’s often done in a shaming way. This finger pointing and blaming makes folks defensive, shut down, and unwilling to admit we all have biases. Repeat after Heidi. It is human to have bias. We’re not a bad person if we admit we have bias. Once we acknowledge it we can begin to catch ourselves before we blindly act on them. We’ll blog about this more in future posts.

5. Recognize coffee’s history and origins. Coffee beans originally came from Ethiopia. Because of trade, colonization, and companies like Starbucks, US coffee culture is now synonymous with white culture. Many communities have unique coffee cultures and ceremonies that involve slowing down and connecting people to their histories, learn about them and remember Starbucks fast-mass produced coffee culture isn’t the norm. In the US there is a violent history of African Americans being segregated and not allowed into restaurants, spend some time learning this history.

6. Not everyone drinks coffee. We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim faith, which involves fasting from sunup to sundown. Many of us center our social lives and work around food and drink. Recognizing how prevalent our US lives are around food is an important part of recognizing some of our biases. I (erin) mark Ramadan on my calendar as a reminder to be conscious of the holy month when scheduling with partners. I don’t drink coffee either, never got around to liking it, so I’ll still meet you for ‘coffee’ but order a tea instead.

7. Design your no-Starbucks-cause-they-are-watching-implicit-bias-videos-afternoon differently. How many times do we default to using Starbucks or other large companies (amazon, Facebook, etc.) instead of defaulting to a poc centered way. Visit a poc centered and preferably embedded museum or cultural center such as Northwest African American Museum, Wing Luke Museum, American Latino Museum, Smithsonian Museum of American Indian,or Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. If you look hard enough you can find a poc centered community driven museum or cultural center, so don’t try to use the excuse “But I’m nowhere near the Smithsonian so I can’t visit a poc museum.”

Heidi also shares this: “I realized in my work I spend most of my money at white owned businesses, in fact too much money at Amazon, damn them for making it so easy to shop whenever something comes to mind. This was by design. If you feel a little uneasy about directing money towards people of color owned businesses in this explicit and intentional way, consider the opposite. Do you want to spend most of your money at only white owned businesses? Usually the answer is no, but that is the current default design of the system. In an attempt to make it easier to spend money at people of color owned businesses, we created an open source map of people of color owned businesses. So now if someone wants to have a coffee meeting or happy hour, we can just open up the map and easily choose a people of color owned business. Please add to the map. I’m happy to report it now even includes a marijuana shop (only to be used in states where pot is legal).

8. Don’t burden pocs, especially Black and Brown people, with educating you on race. In what limited information we’ve seen on the Starbucks training it looks like they engaged very well-respected and credentialed people to help them design the training. It will feature videos, a guidebook for facilitators, and conversation. We sincerely hope in those conversations the pocs in the room aren’t burdened with having to educate others or deal with white tears, fragility, hostility, and so on. Creating a space to learn together takes time and dedication, practice, and trusting relationships.

9. Register to vote. Spend the afternoon getting involved in civic actions. Voting is important to undoing racist policies at a systems level. Register to vote and help someone else register. Learn about an obscure race or ballot measure– those school board elections, initiatives and referendums, port commissioners races on the ballot. We have yet to meet someone who is well versed on everything they vote on. Engage someone unexpected in a conversation about these and think through how race impacts the election. The other day, while I (erin) was waiting for my kid to finish a project I chatted with a small business owner-of-color about Washington’s need for an income tax and how a regressive tax system holds back families-of-color like hers. She was confused, but it planted a seed of a thought for a future conversation.

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