Starbucks (Yay!) is Still a Corporation (Boo!)

A lot of corporations do things that are bad for the world, whether that’s the environment or people or both. Starbucks is not an exception to that.
 
In doing racial bias training in all their American stores, they are doing the right thing, insofar as there is a right thing. Yes, it’s PR. Yes, they should already have done it, and every company in America should start doing it yesterday and 20 years ago and 60 years ago, in perpetuity. 
 
If you are of the opinion that Starbucks shouldn’t exist because of your opinions about corporations in general, I don’t expect you to be happy with them. Nothing will make you happy about their behavior except for closing their doors.
 
If you have a less condemning view of Starbucks, you will appreciate the difference between Starbucks’ response and any major airline’s response to racist behavior on the part of their employees in the last couple years, or any police force after the summary execution of an unarmed black man or woman. You know that corporations are haneously bad at responding to backlash. You are relieved that Starbucks isn’t haneously bad in this way.
 
There are layers to this. Starbucks’ exploitative practices in sourcing and their use of non-compostable plastics is bad. They are doing a thing, unrelated to those bad things, that is not bad, at the very least, better than average.
 
The question for you, especially if you mostly don’t mind corporations, is whether or not to lean into the other layers. The other layers require something of you. If corporations are problematic, so might be how you spend your money on them. If Starbucks is exploiting POC in Central and South America and contributing significantly to our plastic problem, should you support them with your dollars? That’s a good question to ask yourself.
 
And I get that this is complex, that there are many, many people who depend on Starbucks for jobs and meeting places, and wifi. I get that condemning a corporation as whole runs the risk of, in fact, disenfranchising marginalized groups who use and depend on the services the corporation is providing.
 
I confess to not liking Starbucks’ products, so I do not personally spend my money there (side note: I am calling a moratorium on the practice of giving Starbucks gift cards as office gifts; please, get anything else at all). But Starbucks is inescapable in the world, especially in Seattle, so I know I have to contend with them one way or another.
I don’t feel like I have clear guidance or an opinion on this issue. Rather it has simply struck me as I see some of social media feeds consumed with debate about this that there is a difference between saying “oh that is better than usual; I will save my outrage,” and “corporations are bad; this is no time to let this one off the hook.” I’d even go so far as to say they are not mutually exclusive. I don’t think there is ever a good time to let a corporation off the hook, but just like with the airlines, I feel completely powerless to steer the fundamental function of the business model. If I don’t have to be outraged over their response to an employee calling the police on two black men for absolutely no reason (especially because I am already furious that the police were called in the first place), I will keep living my life, which includes not buying Starbucks 99.9% of the time.

King County Democrats Call for Chair’s Resignation

If three weeks ago Bailey had stood before the body and announced he was an alcoholic, that he was seeking treatment, and would step down as chair at least for the duration of the investigation, he would have a future political career. If he had done so on Monday night, he might still have had a future in politics. However, after a 38-13 vote calling for his resignation at last night’s King County Democrats Executive Committee Meeting yielded only contention from him, Stober has forfeited his political future.

I do hope that Bailey addresses what appears to be alcoholism. I hope he learns how to be kind, when so often he has chosen not to be. But the Democratic party is not worse off without a man who abuses his power; intimidates, bullies, and threatens employees, volunteers, and colleagues; fat shames women; and bankrupts his organization.

I attended Monday night’s meeting. This time, Bailey made a motion not to go into Executive Session, meaning, the press and I were all allowed to stay in the room. It was the only motion he brought to the floor that passed all evening. The whole atmosphere had shifted in the few weeks since the last meeting. I sat with the accusers, victims, and allies who did not have a vote or a voice in the meeting. A couple alternates and a voting committee member sat with us as well, and we conferred about each development and how to respond.

I felt assured that we had reached a turning point when Bailey’s second attempt to make a statement in his defense was voted down. He was trying to amend an approved agenda and had indicated that he had evidence to present (presumably against his former employee, Natalia Koss Vallejo). However, this was not a trial, the agenda had been approved, and they had set a specific end-time. He didn’t get his six minutes or his 15 minutes. All he could do was stall the inevitable.

About 2 hours in, we were less than a third through the agenda. Miraculously, though (or because of the presiding chair), we made it all the way through every agenda item, including setting a deadline for calling a special PCO meeting, a motion calling for Bailey’s resignation, and a motion preventing him from chairing the next meeting.

These are big wins for women, and they signal the end of Bailey’s tenure as chair. I don’t want to overstate this success though. The victims don’t get what all victims want, need, and deserve: a heartfelt apology. Bailey has upt to this point continued to deny any and all wrongdoing. While some form of justice will eventually be served, it will be justice delayed.

I need to talk about something equally contentious, but having noticed it, I cannot unnotice it, and I feel like I need to say something.

I observed that some of the most vocal defenders of Bailey were Black. As a community, that is a reality we need to attend to going forward. I think Bailey needs to go, but I am worried it will alienate people whose voices I value—people whose voices are too often silenced and overlooked. I can’t tell a black woman that something isn’t about race. If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that pretty much everything is about race. The victims and accusers don’t have to feel a racial motivation for race to be involved. I acknowledge the racial history both of this country and of this county. Bringing down Bailey feels like yet another way that white folks and non-black POC make it impossible for black folks to thrive. That is a sentiment that makes sense to me and is valid for a lot of reasons—not the least of which include losses by candidates such as Erin Jones and Nikkita Oliver. I say this knowing that many witnesses and allies are women of color, and I know there is a diversity of opinion on this, even among Black members of KC Dems. I want to acknowledge the tension I observed here, and not minimize those natural and justified feelings. If I need to silence Black men and women to justify my position, then my position is wrong.

I know this piece might leave me looking conflicted about the way forward for KC Dems. I am not. There is ample evidence that Stober has behaved problematically, and the narrative here has reached a critical mass. KC Dems will not be a viable organization unless Stober steps down or is removed. I do care about relationships, and I do care about the message being sent and to whom. I do genuinely care about achieving the intersectional ideals I espouse. One comment I hear repeatedly in arguments calling for Stober’s resignation is that we are sending the wrong message to women and workers, the message that we will not protect them or believe them. That’s not the message we want to send or should be sending. Let’s be equally cognisant of what message ousting Bailey sends to our Black members.

On Ferguson and an Unparalleled Hug

When I was in sixth grade, I met a woman who would change my life. She was powerful. Her words and actions were weighty and significant. I did not hesitate to both cower in awe of her and to throw myself into her magnificent, unparalleled hugs.

It was not only that she was large and soft, or that she would sing while she hugged me, her voice resonating in her chest, reverberating off of mine. Her hugs had been carefully crafted through suffering and sorrow turned to joy. She carried heaven in her embrace. It did not take long before I would miss her hugs. The longer it had been since I had last seen her, the more I looked forward to the next one. It was hug therapy.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know when I knew Mae. I didn’t know stereotypes about angry black women or large black women. I didn’t know that food could be racist. I didn’t know that the black body that I sought out for comfort and healing lived a life of problematization. I didn’t know that the reason she could sing the way she did—from a place deeper than lungs—or hug with arms more than matter was because both had been tempered by a world bent on making her less human.

Still, she had infectious laughter. Still, she indiscriminately became a mother to anyone who needed one. Still, she danced. Still, she sang.

She transcended.

Perhaps, I have painted her as too much of a myth. It is possible that time and distance have caricatured her in my memory. I did dream once that I was jumping on a trampoline with her and Abraham Lincoln.

Mae is not and never has been perfect (she has her own story to tell), but I am wholly convinced that on more than one occasion, she has embodied love. It is for this reason, as a recipient and witness of Mae’s unbounded ability to love and give, that I consider the events of Ferguson, Missouri (and other similar events) the way I do. The media provides no shortage of images of thugs and potential criminals. But I think of Mae. I imagine if Michael Brown’s mother were Mae, someone I know and love and trust. Then I know that indictment or no indictment, hearings at the UN, audiences with the president, and press conferences are insignificant next her loss, next to what has torn inside her.

I am grieving that justice for Michael Brown is only a hashtag, not something being acted out by the justice system.

I wish that mine could be the arms that hold the grief and fear and rage, encircling them in love and hope.

I wish that hugs could undo the damage that bullets and pepper spray and tear gas do.

I wish that I were not sitting safely behind a computer screen, but standing face to face with you. I’d look you in the eyes and echo the president’s words last night: your experiences are real, and your emotions are valid. You are not making this up.

I am indebted to Mae. She saw my pale skin, and she didn’t pretend I wasn’t white. Instead, she wrapped my white body in her black arms and held me. No amount of fear mongering can change that.