You will find no more devotee of soy vanilla lattes at 135 degrees than yours truly.
When I first got my Starbucks card, I filled it up quickly and accumulated points just as frequently. With each new iteration of their rewards program, I thoroughly read each section to reveal how I’d get more free tasty beverages, and encouraged quite a few people to sign up. My mother-in-law-to-be is on the program, and she frequently tells me about the new contests and rewards specials before I’ve even opened my app.
I’ve been a gold-level member since I can remember. And often, I was months away from when I’d need to “renew” to keep the status. Let’s just say, I have freebies now on there that I haven’t even redeemed yet because I just can’t drink that many coffees or eat that many goodies at once.
So, when I say this, I say it with love: Thank you, Starbucks. Now that you know better, keep doing better. And don’t just stop at the top level, or one-time shot. Dig deep.
I remember the one time I was clearly racist, and I felt like complete crap.
A woman, in her 20s, was looking at a deli counter item. I smiled and said, “All of these are vegan!” Except, I didn’t say it like you probably think. It was like I was talking to a child who was across the room… almost shouting, with long pauses and spaces, in between.
You see, where I grew up, every person that looked like this woman (appearing to be of Asian descent) spoke English as a second or tertiary language, and very, very broken. I assumed she was the same, without thinking.
She winced at me.
She then said, in her midwestern voice, “Yeah, I know. Thanks.”
I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell her I’m a complete idiot and that I was so sorry. But, I did what many of us have done in those moments: smiled sheepishly, and tried to move away as quickly as possible.
Is this to defend the employees (called “partners”) actions that took place on April 12th in a Starbucks in Philly?
I was wrong. And like so many times in our lives when we’re wrong, we just have to take the brunt of it, swallow our pride, and just remember to never, ever make that mistake, again.
My lesson, in that moment, was to be uncomfortable. To know that this was growth, and that there will be more moments. But I couldn’t let the uneasiness of it all deter me from finishing the lesson. I had to follow through.
I dedicated myself to befriending, finding, and even just talking to people of different ethnicities that I was ignorant about. I learned about other cultures, how we’re all so much alike, and how 90% of what I knew was basically lies told and passed down from stupid, lazy people that I admired. And 10% was from honorable, smart people I adored.
So my request to Starbucks is to give your people a mission. Tell them that whomever they don’t know, whatever culture that’s not in their circle, task all of your people — every single partner — with finding that person or persons, sitting down, and having a cup of coffee with them. That is how you change the world.
Starbucks has announced that it will close all of its stores for racial bias training on May 29, 2018.
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