Starbucks is embroiled in one of its largest scandals to date after two black men were arrested for trespassing in a Philadelphia coffeeshop when they were waiting for a business associate without immediately making a purchase. Video of the incident, which shows police handcuffing 23-year-olds Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, quickly went viral, and a protest was organized. Starbucks issued an apology for what it called a “reprehensible outcome,” announcing that more than 8,000 U.S. stores would be closed next month for a day of racial-bias training.
But when I asked Starbucks if racial-bias trainings were being considered for any of their other global markets, a spokesperson told me the company is focusing on the U.S. trainings first, adding: “Once completed, training materials will be shared with teams around the world, as we work to understand how these important issues impact us on a global scale.” Company-wide trainings aren’t currently being set in motion.
In some ways, the company’s decision to limit its discussion about racial bias to U.S. stores makes sense. After all, the incident took place at a U.S. location, was initiated by U.S.-based staff, and involved U.S. police. But the coffee chain has tens of thousands of locations in at least 75 countries. In London, there are at least 200 locations—as I write this, I’m within walking distance of at least a dozen—and any one of them could probably benefit from racial-bias training. Taking my city as a test case, I asked Londoners: Couldn’t what happened in Philadelphia just as easily have occurred here in the U.K.?