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.