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Archived: Another Racist Starbucks Incident Surfaces. Is it a Corporate Culture Problem

The racist incident that took place at a Starbucks in Philadelphia last week was apparently not an isolated incident as another one surfaced yesterday.


A racist encounter between a Starbucks manager and a Black man in Torrance, Calif., in January picked up social media velocity after the Philadelphia incident.

Brandon Ward, 26, reportedly walked into Starbucks and asked for the code to the restroom. He was told the bathroom is only for customers. So he asked if he could use the restroom first and then come out and make a purchase, but the employee said no.

Ward then saw a white man walk out of the bathroom, empty-handed, and began recording. The white man identified himself as Westin and said he was given the bathroom code before he bought any food or drink.

“Have you purchased anything in here today” Ward asks.

“No, but I was just about to,” Westin answers.

“But before you made a purchase they let you use the restroom” Ward questions.

“I just asked for the code,” Westin responds.

“You asked for the code and they just gave it to you, right”

“Yeah.”

“Before you made a purchase”

“Yeah.”

Ward then approaches an employee, who identifies herself as the store manager and tells Ward the store is a private business.

“You are actually not allowed to be in here anymore. You need to leave,” the manager says.

“Is it my skin color” Ward asks. “Is it my skin color”

A security guard escorted Ward out before the police arrived.

“There should have been a sign right there that says whites only, because that’s how they treated it,” Ward told CBS.

Ward posted the video to his Instagram account in January, but it has received new notoriety after the incident in Philly last week pointed to part of a pattern.

Related Story: Starbucks CEO Whitesplains Defense of Manager Who Called Cops on Black Men in Philly

“If you have a policy, you should abide by those guidelines for everyone,” Ward told ABC7. “You can’t sit here and segregate things, so you might as well put on the store with your policy, ‘Whites Only,’ at the end.”

A Starbucks spokeswoman said to The Washington Post in a statement that the company is “working closely with the team to learn from our mistakes.”

“We are fully investigating our store practices and guidelines across the company,” she said. “In addition to our own review we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices, including unconscious bias training.”

The company pledged to close 8,000 of its stores next month for an afternoon of implicit bias training for some of its employees.

Related Story: Starbucks is ‘Anti-Black,’ Say Protesters at Philly Coffee House

The fact that such similar incidents occurred at two different locations suggests a company culture problem, one that may start at the top. And a look at the company’s leadership team still shows a lack of diversity. Roughly one-fifth of its members are ethnically diverse, and it is two-thirds male.

Starbucks came under fire several years ago when baristas started writing “Race Together” on their coffee cups. The intention was to start a dialogue about racial issues spreading nationwide. However, the move was highly criticized as a publicity stunt. Since the “Race Together” catastrophe, the company added Rosalind Brewer, a Black woman, to its ranks as chief operating officer and group president.

Other racial incidents have also went viral. A few months ago a woman at a Starbucks in California was
asked to leave after she complained that nearby patrons were speaking “Oriental.” The two students were speaking Korean. An employee told the woman that they are free to speak whatever language they want, to which the woman said that President Barack Obama once said that everyone who comes to America should speak English. She was later removed by police, according to reports.

At a
Chicago Starbucks in June a man went on a racist tirade after someone spilled a cup of coffee on him. He called one Black man a slave and spit on another, telling him his children are “disposable vermin.” He was charged with counts of aggravated battery and committing a hate crime.

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