News and Commentary

Starbucks Excludes Jewish Group From Anti-Bias Training Amid Pressure From Activists

In response to public backlash after a store manager called the cops on two African Americans for staying too long without purchasing something, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced the closure of over 8,000 stores on May 29 for mandatory, company-wide racial sensitivity training. But a change to the company’s plans suggests that Starbucks’ much-publicized “unconscious bias” training is not without its own bias.

“Bowing to pressure from African-American activists, Starbucks excluded the Anti-Defamation League from an upcoming daylong anti-bias training session,” Politico reported Monday.

The ADL, a group dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, was originally asked by Starbucks to help develop the curriculum for the anti-bias training, but now they will only play an advisory role in the much-hyped training session.

As Politico details, the change comes after some high-profile anti-Israel African-American activists — including a Women’s March leader who made headlines in recent months after attending a Louis Farrakhan event and the founder of an anti-“police terror” group — publicly condemned Starbucks for including the Jewish group. Politico reports:

“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.

Jewish online magazine Tablet also reported on Starbucks’ decision to “kick out” the ADL from its bias training session. As Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz notes, the ADL’s Greenblatt was originally one of four leaders of anti-discrimination groups tasked with creating the curriculum. While the other three leaders are still helping lead the training, Starbucks’ April 24 press release on the training session revealed that Greenblatt had been removed from the list leaders:

[Starbucks] named the four experts it said will help lead the effort: Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, Heather McGhee of the liberal think tank Demos, and Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO. But Tamika Mallory, a leader of the Women’s March and vocal supporter of Louis Farrakhan, objected, saying in a tweet that the ADL was an organization dedicated to “constantly attacking black and brown people.”

Mallory’s bigoted observation might’ve swayed someone at Starbucks: Last week, the chain announced that while the other three experts will still lead the training, Greenblatt will not, and that the ADL will now be demoted to a secondary role alongside “a diverse array of organizations and civil rights experts” that will provide limited consulting to Starbucks.

When Politico reached out to Starbucks to find out why the Jewish group was conspicuously being excluded, a Starbucks representative denied that political pressure had anything to do with the decision and suggested the Jewish group would play more of a role in future training sessions, just not this one.