On April 12, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two African American men, entered a Starbucks in Philadelphia. A manager made a call to police after the men declined to leave the premises, as they had been waiting for an acquaintance. They were early for a meeting with a white man with whom they had met other times in the past for a potential real estate deal.
“I think it’s really shocking to me that this happened because even in recent years we’ve made a lot of progression in terms of racial bias but this feels like a step backwards…they [Starbucks] could talk to their employees but ultimately they’re in charge of their own actions,” said Sarah Chang, freshman.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized to the men. Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. said that the location where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are exclusively for paying customers only.
“I think that you could wait for at least a little longer than just assume. If they say they’re waiting for someone, figure out what’s going on before you just act based on assumptions,” said Erin Zhu, freshman.
This incident led to protests at the Starbucks store where the arrests occurred, and a national boycott of the company.
The Starbucks CEO closed stores in the afternoon of May 29 for mandatory training targeted at bias.
“Any company, in the interviewing process, should make sure that no employees are noticeably racist,” said Teela Hamner, freshman.
Nelson and Robinson said they are in mediation proceedings with Starbucks to implement changes, including posting a customer bill of rights in stores.
“I get that like they closed the stores to go over racism… that’s a start but they could do way more….they could take more than a day…I feel like if it’s really obvious that[customers] have a weapon then call[police], but don’t just assume,” said Garrett Wilkinson, freshman.
Nelson and Robinson settled for one dollar each and a $200,000 grant for entrepreneurial programs in high schools.