Image by Jose Moreno, Philadelphia Inquirer

White people are listening, Howard Schultz

I had a very specific goal in mind when I bought a ticket to billionaire coffee mogul and potential 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz’s book event at the Free Library of Philadelphia on February 13. I had been trying to get a meeting with him ever since I shared the now infamous video of Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson being arrested in my neighborhood Starbucks. As a result of the incident, I started working with Michelle Saahene, the first person to speak up in the Starbucks that day. Together we started From Privilege to Progress, which calls on allies to show up against racism through education, speaking up in their everyday lives and amplifying issues of racial justice in their social media networks.

To be fair, I’m sure she did feel threatened, but not because of anything the two men actually said or did. Instead she defaulted to the all too frequent internalized racist mythology of black danger, which is the very definition of implicit bias — the very same implicit bias that, ironically, Schultz threw big names and money at in his one-day training. I then watched him double down on the “I don’t see color” narrative that is not only factually incorrect but denies the existence and experience of every person of color in this country.

So I did what Michelle and I ask others to do — I spoke up. With a predominantly white audience looking on, I spoke respectfully, telling him the inaccurate way he described the incident was perpetuating the problem. I had hoped that he would acknowledge his mistake, but instead, he defended himself, saying that he had gone against advice to publicly acknowledge that the incident was because of racial bias. It’s common for white people like me to get defensive when called out on their deep-seated internal narratives about race, but I expected more from Schultz, considering that he has continued to portray himself as someone of authority, or at least openness, on the issue.

That white lady who shared the Starbucks video then co-founded the @privtoprog movement. Writer. Activist. Relentless. #ShowUp

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store