Starbucks’ stumbling attempt to prove its commitment to combating bias has officially created a new enemy after the company apparently caved to bigoted voices. “What a painful irony that, in their attempt to combat racial stereotyping, Starbucks has given in to purveyors of other hatreds,” a Jewish progressive group said Tuesday.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has attempted to turn the PR crisis started by a viral video of two young black men being arrested in a Philly Starbucks into an opportunity to virtue signal about the company’s commitment to purging “unconscious bias” from its ranks by closing over 8,000 stores on May 29 for some anti-discrimination training. But on Friday, the company revealed that it has decided to exclude the head of a Jewish group from its panel of experts for the training session, a move that followed a series of vitriolic statements from racial activists against the group and Israel.
Starbucks’ decision to remove Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt from its training session has not gone unnoticed. On Tuesday, the Jewish progressive group Zioness, “a coalition of activists and allies that express their Zionist and progressive values through collective action,” publicly denounced Starbucks for caving to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic voices. Here is the group’s full statement as reported by The Algemeiner:
What a painful irony that, in their attempt to combat racial stereotyping, Starbucks has given in to purveyors of other hatreds. Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour (two well-known activists who have assailed the ADL) have no authority lecturing anyone — especially one of America’s largest and most influential corporations — on bigotry. Their longstanding adoration of Louis Farrakhan (who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an unabashed antisemite and who preaches hate against the LGBTQ community) should disqualify them from directing any national discourse on discrimination.
As inclusive progressives committed to civil rights and social justice for all people, we are alarmed that the decision-making of a corporate and community leader like Starbucks could be influenced by homophobe-admiring activists who traffic in the worst kinds of anti-Semitic imagery. The ADL has been on the front lines of civil rights advocacy and anti-bias work for more than a hundred years and is uniquely qualified to provide trainings on white supremacy, implicit bias and divisive stereotyping, helping to build stronger, more open and welcoming communities.
Starbucks originally announced four experts who would head up their anti-bias training: Greenblatt, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Heather McGhee of liberal think tank Demos. Last Friday, Starbucks revealed that Greenblatt had suddenly been excluded from the panel, demoted to a secondary consulting role.
Starbucks’ reversal of its original decision to invite Greenblatt to the training came after complaints by Mallory and Cat Brooks, the founder of an “anti-police terror” group, among others. On Monday, Politico highlighted some of the bigoted responses from the activists that eventually resulted in Starbucks “bowing to pressure”:
“The ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people,” Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory posted on Twitter. “This is a sign that they are tone deaf and not committed to addressing the concerns of black folk.” Mallory came under fire earlier this year after attending a Feb. 25 speech by Louis Farrakhan in which the Nation of Islam leader said “the Jews have control over” the FBI.
Cat Brooks, the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, told ABC News that she agreed with Mallory, saying, “You can’t be a piece of an anti-bias training when you openly support a racist, oppressive and brutal colonization of Palestine.”
The Washington chapter of Black Lives Matter, meanwhile, tweeted that the ADL was “ultra pro-cop,” and cited a 2016 letter in which [ADL CEO Jonathan] Greenblatt said “ADL has not endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement” because “a small minority of [its] leaders … supported anti-Israel — and at times anti-Semitic — positions.” Greenblatt’s letter didn’t identify the leaders in question.