Tag Archives: Howard Schultz

An Ethics Riddle: What Do Starbucks And The University Of Virginia Have In Common?

They both called the cops on someone who was violating a policy. Only one of them, however, was accused of racism.

Bruce Kothmann, a University of Virginia alumnus, read aloud from his Bible on the steps of the school’s Rotunda this week, so university police came make him stop. He did stop, because he didn’t want to be arrested. For such public speech is no longer allowed at the public university. The Rotunda is not one of the places the university has designated for public speech by outsiders. Kothmann was on to campus because his daughter had just finished her sophomore year, but was reading from his  Bible with him to challenge the school’s  policy limiting speech on campus.

A terse reader comment on the story said, “This is basically what happened at Starbucks.” The comment is correct.

Would UVA have sent the police to silence a black parent? My guess: no, and if it had, the school would be grovelling in the dust right now, begging for forgiveness. Unless the school could quickly point to a white transgressor who got the cops called on him, a charge of race bias would be devastating, and, of course, effective.

You recall the Starbucks episode: I covered it here. Two African Americans were informed of a Starbucks policy that required those using the facilities to be customers. The men refused, the manager called the police claiming trespass, and the rest is ugly, race-baiting history. The two men could have left just as Mr. Kothmann agreed to stop reading, but that’s just moral luck. The reader was right: the episodes were the same….except for the race of the violator involved.

The Ethics Alarms position is that both policies, that of the university and the old Starbucks policy, are reasonable, with the Starbucks policy being the more  defensible, since UVA is a public university and has the First Amendment to contend with. Never mind: the news media and the social justice social media mob have little interest in a white man being stopped by police from reading that old rag, The Bible, but if two black men violating a private business’s reasonable policy have that policy enforced against them, that’s intolerable.

We have the birth of a new racial privilege, now extending beyond police shootings (a white cop can safety shoot a threatening white suspect, but not a black one) to other forms of previously justifiable conduct. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

I Suppose It Is Comforting To Know That I Wasn’t Unfair To Starbucks And Howard Schultz

Starbucks Quiz

If the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign had turned out to be carefully thought out, intelligent, sophisticated and responsible, and not  a facile, condescending and cynical effort to promote a brand while creating static and white noise in the midst of an important cultural discussion, I would be obligated to apologize for doubting CEO Howard Schultz’s wisdom and ethics. It would also have been an apology I would have enjoyed making.

Sadly, I was not only correct in my assessment that this was a fiasco in the making, I was more correct than I suspected. Above is the “Race Relations Reality Check ” quiz that Starbucks has reportedly been distributing. The questions indicate a bottom-of-the-well level of comprehension about race and racism, not to mention demographics, culture and the human species. It appears that Starbucks favors some kind of affirmative action program on personal friendships, and believes that one can measure racism or incipient bias by how many individuals of other races one has regular contact with. I don’t even want to have a discussion with someone this shallow. A whole corporation this shallow is a nauseating thing to contemplate. A corporation this shallow that presumes to lead a national discussion on race is, oh I don’t know—Risible? Sad? Dangerous?

Starbucks seems to be thinking like George Costanza, during the period where he was trying to acquire black friends and managed to annoy and insult every African-American he met. The presumptions here are staggering, and so directly contrary to life, logic and the realities of human existence that i get angry just reading them. I was at an ethics conference in Nigeria, and met some of the most intelligent, charming, passionate people I have ever encountered in my life. I would be honored and enriched to have any of them in my life, and would hope that I could develop close friendships with them—but I can’t, because I live in the U.S. and they live in about 15 African nations, and it’s just too darn expensive to dine at each others’ homes. I live in an area, Northern Virginia, that is overwhelmingly white, not because it is white, but because it is convenient to my work and we found a great deal on a house. I work in two fields, theater and ethics, that do not afford a lot of contact with African Americans. The last time we had anyone other than immediate family to dinner was a decade or more ago; the last time anyone other than family, black or white, had us to dinner was longer ago than that—and I am a delightful dinner companion. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Marketing and Advertising, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Observations on Starbuck’s “Put Your Customer On The Spot” Program

Race together

Beginning this week, Starbucks baristas will have the option of handing coffee cups to customers on which the Starbucks employee has written the words “Race Together” as an invitation to start a discussion about race in America. Friday, each copy of USA Today will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.

Good golly Miss Molly. Where to begin? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Tom Crist, Canadian Lottery Winner

“I just retired at the end of September so I was fortunate enough in my career to set myself up and my kids anyway, and there was no doubt in my mind where that money was going to go, it was going to go to charity.”

Tom Crist, of Calgary, Canada, announcing that he was giving the 40 million dollars  he won in Canada’s Lotto Max jackpot on May 3 to support cancer research.

Tom Crist, who understands what "enough" is.

Tom Crist, who understands what “enough” is.

Just in time for Christmas comes the aptly- named anti-Scrooge named Tom Crist. Christ retired as president and chief executive of the electronics company EECOL in September, and has said that he had done well enough in his career that he did not need the money.

He did not need the money. How often does anyone in this country say that, feel that, or think that? In a nation that is founded on the principles of liberty and self-determination, the freedom to make as much money as we can also imparts the freedom to say, “Ok, that’s it: enough.” Yet we do not.

Why?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Finance