The Starbucks Controversy That Wasn’t

Editor’s Note: The following is Michael Huling’s weekly Highlight.

Over the weekend, a story broke about two black men who were reportedly asked to leave a Starbucks in Philadelphia. One of the men had asked to use the restroom, but an employee informed him that only customers were permitted to use the restroom. The disgruntled man and his friend refused to order anything, insisting that they were waiting on another friend to join them. Since they weren’t ordering, the manager kindly asked them to leave the shop. They refused to do so, and the police were called as a result. The men continued refusing to leave, leading to the officers escorting them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs.

While this story doesn’t seem particularly interesting, the media have been captivated by it all week, crying RACISM™! Never mind the fact that it’s a very common policy for businesses to restrict restroom usage to customers only. Forget that the employee is reportedly a progressive, feminist, and social justice advocate. Who cares that this Starbucks location serves hundreds of black customers each day, without any issues, in a city with a 42 percent black population? So what that at least one of the officers who arrived on scene was a black man, and that the Philadelphia chief of police is also black? What does it matter that these men quickly became very hostile and disrespectful to the Starbucks employees and the police? What difference does it make that Starbucks is one of the most liberal corporations in the United States, and has been celebrated endlessly by folks on the Left for its commitment to “a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity” as well as pay equity?

The point I’m making is that the context and facts of the case show just how uncontroversial this entire event was. Instead, the two men involved have since been parading around on television, talking to anyone with a camera. There have been calls for protests and boycotts of Starbucks across the country, and the company even announced that they will close 8,000 restaurants for a day to hold “racial-bias training” for employees. The absurdity of the reactionary outrage has gone so far as protesters yelling at baristas through blow horns, while inside of the Starbucks.

The incessant alarmism regarding racism in America continues to be waged as a club against anyone who dares to cite data to refute this notion. Less than one percent of white Americans say they would move if a black family moved in next door, a number that was 44 percent in 1958. In 1964, 18 percent of whites said that they had a black friend, by 1998 that had climbed to 86 percent. In 1967, only three percent of all marriages were interracial. As of 2015, that has increased fivefold to 17 percent. None of this is to say that racism doesn’t exist or isn’t a major problem, it is. However, shouting incoherent lies amidst protests and boycotts is not a solution, it only exacerbates the problem by hyper-focusing on race. Especially in a nation that just elected a black president in consecutive elections.

I’m somewhat of a coffee connoisseur myself. In a given day, I’ve been known to have a cup of coffee, or two, or 12. I’ll be the first smug coffee critic to say that Starbucks coffee (their actual coffee, not the vanilla mocha frappuccino latte with soy milk or some such concoction) tastes like toilet water. No, I haven’t tried toilet water. However, I’ve had Arrowhead water and it’s pretty similar. In any case, suffice it to say that I’m not some diehard fan of Starbucks, although my 17-year-old sister is presumably a Gold member.

My goal isn’t to defend the company, but really to defend objective truth and evidentiary standards. This was once the purpose of journalism, but it has become increasingly clear that being first is more important than being correct. The real moral of the story is that facts matter, certainly more so than desperate attempts to castigate an entire corporation with 254,000 employees for the arguably justifiable actions of a single employee at one location, who has since left the company.

The Fun Stuff:

I’ll start with basketball this week, because the NBA playoffs have been terrific thus far. LeBron James continues to prove he’s superhuman, posting a triple-double in game one and an even more impressive 46 points in game two. He’s a one man show, and for that reason the Cavs have virtually no chance of winning the championship this season. Houston and Golden State continue to dominate, setting up a likely conference finals matchup. Although, New Orleans looks quite good, even without dominant center DeMarcus Cousins.

Baseball season continues to bring excitement as well, with the Red Sox looking unstoppable. Just typing that sentence makes me want to vomit and never stop vomiting. Regardless, it’s still very early in the season so there will unquestionably be a lot of movement throughout the rest of the year. Which means that the Yanks will surely surpass Boston at some point, even if it’s not until the postseason.

Lastly, the calendar shows that today is April 20, or 4/20, in millennial terms. For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, I won’t be participating in the day’s festivities. Instead, I’ll consume godly amounts of coffee that will produce an opposite effect, but rest assured that it will not be from a certain ubiquitous coffee chain.

Have a great weekend and God bless.


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