Jonathan Hart

Two Different Cups of Joe: How The Coffee Bean and Starbucks Handled Racism

In the Trump era, there has been a proliferation of Islamophobic and racist incidents across the country. When discrimination occurs at a place of business, it’s apparent if the company’s leadership and workforce support diversity and inclusion. A Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf caf barista refused to serve a racist customer; meanwhile, a white manager at a Starbucks called the police on two Black men for no reason.


A video detailing a man going off on a racist rant against a Muslim woman wearing a niqab at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Riverside, Calif., on Friday has gone viral.

During the incident, the man is shown on video asking, “Is this Halloween or something”

“Why would you say that What’s wrong with me” the woman, who identified herself as Kathleen “Amina” Deady, responds. “Do you know I’m a Muslim”

The man indicates that he does and says, “I don’t like that.”

“I don’t like your religion because it says to kill me, and I don’t want to be killed by you. How’s that” he adds.

“You are committing hate speech,” she says.

Eventually, a barista, also the supervisor on duty, flat out refuses to serve him for “being really racist.”

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf supported the actions of the barista.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination of any kind, and have the right to refuse service to any person who makes customers or team members feel endangered in any way,” the company wrote in a statement provided to Newsweek.

In the absence of any corporate policy on diversity one is not available on Coffee Bean’s website companies leave themselves up to the individual diversity interpretations of customer-facing employees a very bad idea.

However, Coffee Bean’s leadership and employees exhibited zero-tolerance for racism, discrimination and harassment, which is something to build upon.

Besides, they are not positioning themselves as experts in diversity and inclusion, like Starbucks tries and fails to do with initiatives such as the Race Together” campaign and acts of racism against Black customers at its stores.

In April, a manager at a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police on two Black men asking to use the bathroom before ordering coffee. The manager spearheaded the racist incident.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson gave a tone-deaf apology.

“Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did,” he said.

But the odds are, if you call the police on Black people, they will be arrested. Black people are more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses, including trespassing, than white people.

It was also reported that a racist encounter occurred between a Starbucks manager and a Black man at a store in Torrance, Calif.

Starbucks has announced it will close 8,000 stores on May 29 for diversity training.

The speed at which they are doing this says to me that this is a PR reaction,” DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti wrote in a recent column.

But it’s not a PR problem. As evidenced by the poor human capital results on their own corporate leadership page (57 people pictured, 19 women, three Blacks, no apparent Latinxs), the corporate culture needs to be repaired from the head down as it does for all strategic business problems.”

So choose wisely where you get your cup of coffee.

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