As you have undoubtedly heard, a couple of black guys were asked to leave a Philadelphia Starbucks where they were waiting for a meeting and, when they failed to scoot, the manager had them arrested. Starbucks’ CEO was mortified and ordered a day of “racial-bias education” for all employees.
While extremely few black people (or white people who pay attention) were surprised by what happened, conservatives were highly suspicious — a black person victimized on account of his race? But we’ve had Obama as president! And what about affirmative action? And when Starbucks proposed a training day they completely flipped out, often using the “Real Racist” argument that people who try to alleviate racism are the actual cause of racism in America, which otherwise would not exist.
It should be mentioned that conservatives have had a low-simmering beef with Starbucks for years — probably because, like Google and Facebook, it’s a huge capitalist success but doesn’t kiss their asses.
In 2008, for example, Michelle Malkin claimed she disliked Starbucks for its “‘corporate social responsibility’ mumbo-jumbo” and was boycotting it because of its “ridiculous policy barring gift card purchasers from customizing personalized cards with the phrase ‘Laissez-Faire.’” Yes, that was actually a thing. (“It’s a policy that made Starbucks vastly successful,” intoned David Boaz at the Wall Street Journal. “But don’t try to put that phrase on a customized Starbucks Card.”)
In 2013 conservatives got mad when Starbucks asked their open-carry customers not to take guns into their stores. In 2015 they raged because Starbucks’ Christmas-season cups didn’t look Christ-in-Christmasy enough; Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, proposed a boycott. (YouTube wingnut Mark Dice was also angry that people were drawing “Fuck Christmas, Hail Satan” on their Starbucks cups, which he seemed not to recognize as a joke.) It got so embarrassing that the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway insisted, in Baghdad Bob fashion, that “Nobody Is Actually Upset About the Starbucks Cup.” (When Trump won, some of his fans sought revenge by paying six bucks for a barista to call out the name “Donald Trump.”)
Since then there’ve been some small Rawwrr-Starbucks-Disrespected-MAGA outbreaks, and a flare-up last year over the company’s plan to hire refugees, but the diversity training thing really inflamed the brethren.
“Starbucks’ Proud Progressivism Can’t Protect It From Charges of Racism,” sneered Julia Dent at the Weekly Standard. “How does this happen at such a progressive business and in such a liberal city?” Dent also had a laugh because “liberals love to complain that businesses like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby that are run by openly conservative proprieters have terrible values,” yet those companies only have problems with gays and women, unlike the progressive Real Racists of Starbucks.
“Report: Starbucks Manager Who Called Cops on Black Men Was Feminist, SJW,” claimed Benjamin Arie at Conservative Tribune. Arie said a “Philadelphia resident” called in to the Ben Shapiro radio show and told the pint-size pundit that the Starbucks manager, “Holly,” was “an SJW feminist of the highest order.… Once I even overheard her scorn a male barista for not using the proper neutral pronouns with somebody.… I’ve personally seen Holly give the oh-so-coveted restroom code to both black and white people, patrons and non-patrons.…”
Doesn’t sound like a put-up job at all, does it? Arie was certainly moved by it: “We’ve crossed a line,” he wrote. “Accusations of ‘racism’ have lost their meaning, ironically thanks to ‘social justice’ adherents including perhaps Holly.” The Real Racists strike again!
National Review published no fewer than three items on the incident and its aftermath. David French sounded passive-aggressively dubious about the racism (“There is near-universal consensus that the Starbucks employee’s actions were racially motivated. Starbucks apparently agrees…I’m not going to question its conclusion”). He didn’t like that Starbucks was going to deal with “unconscious bias,” a concept he called “Orwellian junk science.” Whoever heard of someone being unaware of their own bias? Bigots are all self-aware, like the bad guys in Roots and Django Unchained.
French’s colleague Kyle Smith grudgingly admitted the incident “looks like racism” but retorted, “if a white manager called the police on two white guys hanging around a coffee shop, it wouldn’t make the news, much less become a national obsession.” What makes black people so special? Smith also complained that because of a “mob” that protested at the Philly Starbucks, “any non-racists in the mood for a cup of Starbucks java had to go elsewhere. Why punish them?” Also, do you know how many bus riders were late to work because of Rosa Parks?
National Review’s Jim Geraghty, going for what among readers of that publication must be the easiest possible layup, said, “I suspect you can trace the country’s unexpected path to this mind-set on racial controversies by following the twists and turns in the career of Al Sharpton.” (I guess he could have used O.J. but lacked a sports angle.)
Under a photo from the Starbucks protest, Geraghty’s colleague Jonah Goldberg bravely defended white America from unnamed persons who had slandered her. “There’s a difference between saying, one one hand, that discrimination or other injustices exist and there’s more work to be done,” pleaded Goldberg, “and, on the other, saying that America is the most racist country in the world and that things haven’t gotten better.” If you were wondering who, specifically, had said America was “the most racist country in the world,” Goldberg’s answer was “Search Twitter for ‘most racist’ and ‘America’ and scroll through the results.”
I did as Goldberg suggested, and got mostly results like “most racist cities in america,” “Liberal’s are the most racist people in America,” “The Volcano God is for fucking sure one of the most racist daddies in America,” “@Google is one of the most racist countries in America. If you’re White, Asian or a straight male you’re not welcome at their company,” etc. Occasionally a rando did say America was Most Racist, though, so I guess Goldberg was arguing with such prominent liberal spokespeople as @dj16600775.
“America is not without its problems,” concluded Goldberg, “But perhaps those problems would be alleviated somewhat if we stopped insisting they’re so much worse than they really are.” If only you liberals would stop saying America was racist, there would be less Real Racism.
Other conservatives, perhaps afraid to embarrass themselves, tried an at least ostensibly sympathetic approach. At the Federalist, under the headline “Starbucks Is Right to Address Racism, and Conservatives Should Be On Board,” David Marcus called the incident “deeply troubling” and even admitted “these black guys were arrested because they were black.”
But then it was coffee break over, everyone back on your heads: Marcus predicted the training would be “progressive gobbledygook,” “a bill of goods about privilege theory,” “privilege theory-based spiel,” etc., which he assured readers would lead to “greater disharmony,” presumably due to Real Racism.
Marcus didn’t explain what specifically he meant by “privilege theory,” but he knew why Starbucks employees would be indoctrinated with it: Because, he said, “conservatives have disengaged” from “anti-racism pedagogy” — not through any fault of their own, you understand, but because “any conservative who talks about race is eventually called a racist, and nobody likes being called that.” Imagine if someone had called Abraham Lincoln a racist, that would have stopped him dead in his tracks!
Instead of all this progressive gobbledegook, Marcus said workers should be taught “that the color of a person’s skin tells you nothing about him, and should not be the basis of any judgment you make about him.” Whoa! Why didn’t we think of that? Plus, it’s worked great so far.
When right-wing African American Bryan Sharpe aka Hotep Jesus trolled a Starbucks by demanding a free coffee as “reparations,” some of the brethren became excited, as they are wont to do when they find a black person who agrees with them, a condition also known as “Diamond and Silk Syndrome.”
“A black man walked into a Starbucks store and demanded free coffee as ‘reparations’ for racism in America — but there’s a whole lot more to the story than what’s being reported,” reported Glenn Beck’s the Blaze — though the trolling to which they allude was the story and gleefully reported by Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and hundreds of other conservatives.
Later Right Wing Watch discovered that Sharpe/Jesus has published some, let us say, peculiar views — for example, he said after Charlottesville, “the truth is, Alt-right is the victim here” — but that’s probably not going to dim the brethren’s enthusiasm for him (look, he even says “LIBERALS ARE THE REAL RACISTS” — what’s not to love?); nor has it slaked the conservative thirst for gags on non-conservative black people: 4channers have started disseminating fake free Starbucks coffee vouchers for black people. That’ll teach them to imply white non-liberal America is racist!
If their laughter, like their indignation, seems a bit forced, even desperate, consider: Here we have a giant company that, whatever you think of its sincerity, has weighed the situation and decided it’s in its best interest to make a highly public show of anti-racism at great cost to themselves. That capitalists, of all people, would side against conservatives — led as they are by Donald Trump, who, though obviously really racist, is certainly not Real Racist like liberals and Starbucks — and side with the people conservatives mock as “social justice warriors” — since, to such people, the very idea of social justice is a joke — must really upset them, especially if they understand that Starbucks is not so much taking a side as making a long-term investment.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 23, 2018