Tamika Mallory, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and bete noir of the Israel Lobby, has called out Starbucks for engaging the ADL to run the racial sensitivity training which the company is rolling out for its 8,000 stores next week.
The unprecedented development in the chain’s corporate history follows an ugly racial incident in one of its Philadelphia stores, when a manager refused to permit two Black customers to use the restroom unless they ordered food or drink. After the men sat down, the manager told them they had to leave the store unless they agreed to order. Shortly after this interchange, the manager called the police and the two were arrested for trespassing. As they were being led away in handcuffs, a white real estate agent who had set up the meeting with them, entered and protested to the police regarding their treatment.
In the aftermath of this, a maelstrom of horrendous PR has swamped Starbucks, normally a laid-back, tolerant corporate presence. Black community activists have commandeered the store and refused to permit the employees to do business. The company faces a perfect storm of justified public indignation.
When Starbucks faces such a crisis it calls in founder, Howard Schultz, to save the day. He did this a few years ago when the company was losing direction and stores sales were beginning to decline. At that time, he also ordered the closing of all stores and a chain-wide retraining day. That seems to have lifted the entire company from the doldrums.
While Schultz may be a charismatic corporate leader, he comes from the same corporatist mold as many of the white male CEOs of America. As a Jew, whenever he thinks of bias or racism the first organization he thinks of is the ADL. If Schultz thought a bit more deeply, he would realize that Starbucks must address the anger of the nation’s Black community, not his own pre-conceived notions of what those problems might be. Approaching the ADL to conduct these training sessions shows Schultz’s own prejudices.
No one in the Black community knows the ADL. They know the NAACP. They know Al Sharpton. They know Black Lives Matter. But the ADL? Nah. That’s a bunch of white dudes who hobnob with the rest of the community’s corporate elite. Now, if you want to sensitize Blacks to anti-Semitism, you might call on the ADL. But that’s not what Starbucks wants to do. So why is it turning to the ADL?
It’s a tone-deaf decision. The ADL is much better known as a champion of the Israel Lobby and an enforcer when it comes to punishing anti-Israel speech. It’s known for labeling progressive Jews as anti-Israel and worse; or for calling BDS an attempt to destroy Israel. But fighting racism? Perhaps at one time in its history it was devoted to fighting bias not just against Jews, but against all Americans. But it’s not any more.
This San Francisco rabbi exemplifies what occurs when American Jewish leaders try to tell Black-Americans how to pursue their interests:
Look I don’t agree with everything the ADL stands for, I sometimes have different views, but I really believe if we are going to solve this tremendous problem affecting people of color in our country that we have to be a broad coalition and be willing to work together across some differences,” said Rodich.
Why is a rabbi of San Francisco’s wealthiest temple telling Black folk how to solve their “problems” (his term)? Why doesn’t he consult with Black leaders before deciding what’s best for them?
The ADL has also put itself out there as an arbiter of anti-bias training for local police forces. In particular, it’s consulted about educating police officers about Islamophobia and offering greater sensitivity to local Muslim communities. It’s even offered the sessions on keeping Muslims safe. A number of Muslim organizations have protested this phenomenon. Asking the ADL to teach people to fight Islamophobia is a little like hiring the Trump Organization to train corporate executives about financial transparency.
Further, the ADL runs a series of national junkets for local police chiefs in Israel in which they introduce them to the tactics, protocols and systems used by Israel’s anti-terror forces to suppress the Palestinian community. In Ferguson, where the BLM began, its police deployed skunk cannons, armored vehicles, and other equipment similar to those used by Israel forces to quell civil protest. The ADL is helping militarize policing in the U.S., using Israel as its model. Recently, the Durham (NC) city council voted to discontinue the participation of its own police department in such programs.
Howard Schultz should stop reading the ADL’s own press releases and read what the rest of America thinks of some of the ADL’s initiatives and their impact on the Black community.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.