Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Photo credit: Miami Herald
– Editor’s note:
I have written to Mr. Pitts twice previously for his outstanding observations of this country’s social issues staring us right in our face. He nailed-it again last weekend [April 21] and is spot-on when he says racism “is not a Starbucks problem, but an American problem.” An excerpt of Pitts’ column is below and deserves thoughtful consideration.
– “A standing ovation for the Starbucks CEO who confronted the truth about racism in America”
By Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald
“What you are less likely to encounter when confronted by racism is white people who will own the problem, who will have the guts, humanity and humility required to confront it, assess it and resolve it. So this column is a standing ovation for Starbucks.
Last week, faced with the public relations disaster noted above, CEO Kevin Johnson did all the expected things. He said what happened was wrong. He issued apologies. He did the whole this-is-not-who-we-are routine.
Then, Johnson did something unexpected, announcing the closure of 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 so that his nearly 175,000 employees can undergo training in preventing implicit bias. Given how difficult it can be to get white people to even acknowledge the reality of implicit bias, we ought not breeze past the significance of that.
Starbucks deserves credit for one of the most authentic and creative corporate responses in recent memory. One of the bravest, too, given the likely hit to the company’s coffers the mass closure represents.
And as we are singing praises, let’s spare a stanza or two for the white civilians at Starbucks who saw what was happening, whipped out their cellphones to record it and demanded answers from the cops. Nor should we forget those who showed up and showed out at subsequent protests.
One can only hope other white people are taking note. Other white institutions, too. Meaning coffee shops, yes, but also libraries, churches, supermarkets, gyms and police departments. Ultimately, after all, this is not a Starbucks problem, but an American problem. And until we face it, the next public relations disaster — or tragedy — is always just around the corner.
It would be good to see Americans — particularly white Americans — take ownership of that truth. To its credit, Starbucks just did.”
Read more of Pitts’ full column.