The Lumberjack student newspaper
Customers make their way into Starbucks in McKinleyville. Photo by Matthew Hable.

Leadership should be accountable in response to racism

Humboldt State President Lisa Rossbacher should follow the example of Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson

More than 8,000 Starbucks coffee shops will be closed on May 29 to train employees on “implicit bias,” as opposed to explicit racism, and “promote conscious inclusion,” according to their press release on April 17.

The racial bias training, scheduled for nearly 175,000 Starbucks employees, is a grand publicity stunt that will prove to be futile in the short run. When the smoke clears, and it’ll clear fast, Starbucks will be business as usual, and racism in the U.S. will be the same as it ever was.

In fairness, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson wasted no time in personally addressing the issue in light of the incident. Johnson ultimately put himself in the hot seat, rather than refer to a spokesperson.

President of Humboldt State University, Lisa Rossbacher, could learn something from Johnson.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested at a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia on April 12. The reported scenario allegedly goes like this: two black men walk into a Starbucks for a business meeting involving an ongoing real estate deal with investor Andrew Yaffe. While waiting for Yaffe to arrive, Nelson asked to use the restroom, but was denied by the manager, who is white. The manager asked if they wanted to order drinks, but they said no. The manager then called the police for assistance to remove Nelson and Robinson from the cafe for trespassing, which was promptly granted.

According to calculations by financially-focused media company Bloomberg, Starbucks is expected to lose $16.7 million on training day, a relatively small loss of profit compared to their average $20 billion in revenue (an approximate average of Starbucks revenue between 2015 and 2017).

If you’ve been following the local news about David Josiah Lawson and Humboldt State University’s budget cuts, Rossbacher was absent during rallies and community events of critical importance this semester, including the budget cuts walkout on March 21 and the one-year vigil of Lawson’s murder on April 15.

Starbucks can implement strategies and enforce new policies, but racism will prevail in the long run. This is the America we have lived in for a long time, which is apparently accentuated in the days of the Trump administration. We can write dozens of editorials protesting racism, but in the grand scheme of things, racism is too deeply rooted in the U.S. to overcome as a nation. It’s only a matter of time before the next person of color gets arrested at a bourgeois, corporate establishment and receive the highly-ratable spotlight by the mainstream media.

At the very least, the CEO is ensuring his company is responsible for addressing the issue without delay, and Johnson himself is making the attempts to be present and accountable.

Rossbacher’s absence reduces her credibility amongst students, regardless of deans or the provost speaking on her behalf. Not just credibility, for her sake, but trust in the institution as a whole, especially for people of color. As we wrap up the spring semester, we urge Rossbacher to be more present in the future.

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