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Starbucks Executive Weighs In On Arrests Of 2 Black Men

Apr 16, 2018
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The protests continue this morning at a Philadelphia Starbucks after a video of two black men being arrested at the location went viral. This happened last Thursday. A Starbucks employee called police, saying that these two men refused to leave. At least one of them had asked to use the restroom but was told they couldn't because they hadn't purchased anything. Turns out the men were at that Starbucks for a business meeting waiting for another person. In the video, you can hear other customers questioning police officers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Well, what did they do? What did they do? Someone tell me what they did.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They didn't do anything. I saw the entire thing.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: They didn't.

MARTIN: The CEO of Starbucks has apologized, and he says he wants to apologize in person to the two men who were arrested. We are joined now by Roz Brewer. She is the chief operating officer for Starbucks. Thank you so much for being with us.

ROSALIND BREWER: Thank you, Rachel, for having me.

MARTIN: So there are protests this morning. We've seen video of people in Philadelphia chanting, Starbucks coffee is anti-black. In a statement over the weekend, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said, quote, "Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling." Is that an acknowledgment that race was a factor in the employee's decision to call the police?

BREWER: So Rachel, first, let me start off by saying that just watching that video was quite painful. You know, as an African-American executive myself with a 23-year-old African-American son, it was very difficult to watch. The police should not have been called in this situation. And this is a teachable moment for all of us. And we take full responsibility to make sure that our company remains great. You know, good companies acknowledge their mistakes, and learn from them and then make the necessary changes to become a better company.

MARTIN: So what changes need to happen? If you say the employee was not following company protocol when they called the police, what needs to change?

BREWER: Well, you know, one of the things we're looking at is, you know, this is a time for us to look at policies, to look at our training and development, to look at, you know, our store managers and give them the required skills that they need. And we're doing all of that. We're looking at ourselves first and saying, how can we be better, and how can we do better? - and to make sure that we've got the right policies and practices around our stores.

MARTIN: So you think this is just a one-off, or there just isn't enough vetting in the hiring practices? I mean, are you saying that this employee was acting out of some kind of racial discrimination against these two people?

BREWER: You know, it would be, you know, easy for us to say that this was a one-employee situation. But, you know, I have to tell you, you know, it's time for us to - myself included - just take personal responsibility here and do the best that we can to make sure that we do everything that we can. For instance, we - unconscious bias training is critical and top of our list, one of the things that we want to make sure happens in this situation. We'll have to move forward from this and learn from it.

MARTIN: Roz Brewer, chief operating officer for Starbucks. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you so much.

BREWER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.