The management responded by arguing that wearing clothing and accessories featuring Black Lives Matter could be misunderstood and “potentially incite violence,” according to BuzzFeed News. The bulletin led employees to a video, which has now been taken down, in which its VP of inclusion and diversity argued that “agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles” of the movement could use them to “amplify divisiveness.”
“My skin color incites violence at Starbucks. Should I not come to work?” he questioned. “It is silencing and Starbucks is complicit. Now more than ever, Starbucks needs to stand with us.”
A Starbucks spokesperson argued that the company is committed to ending “systematic racism,” but the dress code policy will continue because it was needed “to create a safe and welcoming” environment for staff and customers.
“We respect all of our partners’ opinions and beliefs, and encourage them to bring their whole selves to work while adhering to our dress code policy,” said the spokesperson.
Many employees felt the contradictions in such a statemnet, saying Starbuck’s actions now feel “performative,” “shallow,” and “hypocritical.” One barista told BuzzFeed News that they’re only trying to preserve their image as to not disrupt sales.
“[Starbucks CEO] Kevin Johnson talks a big talk on Twitter, but he’s still the head of a multibillion-dollar company that has to keep up with its image,” the barista said. “God forbid if employees tarnish that pristine global image.”
Another employee said that he doesn’t think Black Lives Matter should be rigidly defined as political. “I don’t think asking for and supporting those who want basic human rights is necessarily political,” this worker said.
Benson, who is Black and transgender, pointed out Starbuck’s support for LGBTQ issues despite risks that it could divide people. The company has launched initiatives over the years to help achieve LGBTQ workplace equality and to assist LGBTQ employees with healthcare. The company even marched in Pride parades around the world.
“Starbucks LGBTQ+ partners wear LGBTQ+ pins and shirts, that also could incite and create violent experiences amongst partners and customers,” Benson explained, adding that workers were able to wear LGBTQ+ pins and shirts without purchasing them directly from Starbucks. “We have partners who experienced harassment and transphobia/homophobia for wearing their pins and shirts, and Starbucks still stands behind them.”
It should be noted that Starbucks’ non-support for Black Lives Matter gear comes after they launched anti-biased initiatives around the country following a 2018 racial profiling incident in a Philadelphia store that went viral.
It’s clear the company still has a lot of work to do in understanding bias.
This content was originally published here.