Starbucks faces social media backlash over tepid apology for alleged racial profiling

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Image: LightRocket via Getty Images

Cell phone video captured a bewildered man at Starbucks this week asking Philadelphia police why they were arresting his two black friends. 

Onlookers said there didn’t appear to be a reason for the arrest. The men were simply sitting at the coffee shop, waiting for their business associate — the aforementioned bewildered man — to show up before placing their orders.

Now, Starbucks has confirmed that the incident was a mistake, and “are disappointed this led to an arrest.”

The three-sentence apology, however, is short on details or a even just a blunt admission of guilt. The company did not reply to Mashable’s request for more details at the time of this publication. 

On April 12, a Twitter user posted a 45-second video of the arrest online, in which she commented: “All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

The “same thing,” specifically, is waiting for a friend or sitting at Starbucks before ordering a drink. This is obviously common in many Starbucks scenarios, as Starbucks is one of the nation’s most popular meeting places. 

As the company states on its website:

“It’s not unusual to see people coming to Starbucks to chat, meet up or even work. We’re a neighborhood gathering place, a part of the daily routine – and we couldn’t be happier about it.”

Details are still lacking, but it appears a Starbucks employee called the police on the two black men, for reasons not specified. In the tweeted statement, Starbucks apologized to the two customers. It’s unlikely such a public apology would have occurred if Starbucks wasn’t directly responsibly for the arrest.

It’s also unlikely that Starbucks would have been forced to publicly apologize for the event had the video of the wrongful arrest not been published to social media. It became an issue they couldn’t ignore. 

As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on April 14, the Twitter video has accumulated nearly four million views and the social media conversation around it continues.

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