Last month, a video went viral depicting multiple police officers arresting two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks because, reportedly, they ”hadn’t ordered anything.” The moment stirred nationwide unrest, prompting the coffee chain to close 8,000 stores for an afternoon “racial bias education” session.
Now, Starbucks has announced a major policy change that will have an impact on the larger community. The chain has adopted an open-bathroom policy, meaning that anyone can use the restrooms regardless of whether they have purchased an item.
Per StarTribune, “Chairman Howard Schultz says he doesn’t want the company to become a public bathroom, but feels employees can make the ‘right decision a hundred percent of the time,’ if that choice is removed at the store level.”
Rashon Nelson and his business partner, Donte Robinson, the two Black men arrested last month, ultimately settled with the city of Philadelphia for $1 each, as well as an assurance that the city would establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
In the video that sparked the outrage, the white man whom they were there to meet can be heard adamantly questioning the police and the establishment for their baseless actions.
“This is ridiculous. What did they get called for? Because there were two black guys sitting here meeting me? What did they do? Someone tell me what they did,” he demanded.
“They didn’t do anything. I saw the entire thing,” one customer says.
“Nothing,” said another.
According to a source with knowledge of the arrest, a Starbucks employee called the police.
Amid the public outrage, Starbucks responded to the incident with an apology to the two individuals who were arrested.
We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/suUsytXHks
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 14, 2018
While the move by Starbucks is a step in the right direction, it is nonetheless unfortunate that progress is always so reactive and that it took humiliating two innocent men to enact a degree of change.