starbucks black lives matter

Starbucks reverses policy on Black Lives Matter after boycott

Starbucks is just one of many companies that have shown their true colours by not supporting the Black Lives Matter movement amid renewed protests against systemic racism — and customers don't think it's a good look.

Though the cafe chain issued a public statement saying it was "committed to taking action, learning and supporting" the Black community in the global fight against bias and racism (a whole week and a half after the death of George Floyd, mind you), internal documents tell a very different story.

In a letter recently sent out to employees, Starbucks reminded staff of its dress code, which prohibits buttons or pins that "advocate a political, religious or personal issue."

The document shockingly continues: "Clothing and accessories highlighting Black Lives Matters [sic] do not currently adhere to policy," and quotes the Seattle-based coffee giant's vice-president of inclusion and diversity, who states that such items can "amplify divisiveness."

As a result, people have started boycotting the ubiquitous java purveyor.

The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks has become a thing (again), with people vowing to get their caffeine fix absolutely anywhere else to avoid supporting the massive corporation.

"@Starbucks I will be boycotting you, my favourite coffee shop, until you allow employees to wear BLM shirts etc just like you allow LGBTQ things. Don’t be two faced. #BLM #BoycottStarbucks," one resident wrote on Twitter.

"You choose to be on the wrong side of history @Starbucks. If you're afraid of pissing off your racist customers, you're just as guilty. This movement is about morals, not politics, not revenue, but right and wrong. #BLM" another said.

And yet another social media user smartly suggested that anyone who does visit a Starbucks should tell staff "Black Lives Matter" is their name so that the barista has to write it on their cup and yell it out loud. (But better yet, just don't give them your money.)

Many will remember that the business similarly came under fire in April 2018 after an employee at a Philadelphia location went full Karen and called law enforcement on two Black men who were simply sitting in the cafe waiting for a friend and had asked to use the restroom (and were denied access to it for not buying anything yet).

A video of the incident was viewed millions of times and the same calls to boycott the brand took over social media. 

Starbucks issued a short apology two days later, which many felt was pretty half-assed and disingenuous, and also closed locations to train staff on diversity and racism.

After this latest fiasco, the company is now swiftly trying to save face by announcing on Friday a branded line of BLM apparel for staff.

In a new letter to team members, Starbucks shared that it was designing new t-shirts with a protest graphic designed by its Black Partner Network and allies, with signs reading "time for change," "everyone vs. racism" and "Black Lives Matter."

And, until the more than 250,000 shirts become available, staff are now suddenly free to wear their own BLM gear — a quick 180 from a few days ago.

"We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity. We trust you to do what’s right while never forgetting Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect," the letter reads.

One Toronto Starbucks employee who asked to remain anonymous told Freshdaily that Black Partner pins apparently have to be purchased by employees, and that they feel the company is "silencing black voices in order to make white customers feel safe."

As human rights movements become louder and harder for companies to ignore, it's good to know that consumers are really examining who and what their dollars are supporting, and whether a brand is willing to speak up about and actually take action on things like anti-Black racism.

And when they're not, there's always an independent, local and/or Black-owned — and often much better — business around the corner.

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