Corporate Gas-lighting — Starbucks Copaganda

by WPUSA and P

A Quick Disclaimer

This is something a little different from our usual pieces. It was written by a close associate of one of our members based on real life events. As such, it’s not so much analytical, although analysis is there, as it is a personal expression of how corporate power works with state political power and their enforcers in the police departments to place the blame for police terror on its very victims.

For the safety of the associate, names are being omitted as are places and anything which may even indicate gender or setting. The associate will only be referred to as “P,” for person. All we’ll say about the reporter is that they are African-American. Because Starbucks could move to fire P for this if, even with our small readership and the small scope of this piece, they managed to catch wind of the mentioning of Starbucks’ internal, ideological education we hope you understand our invocation of press confidentiality.


Businesses are tangibly supported by the police because the police protect the capitalist’s right to ownership of said businesses by punishing any kind of theft or damage directed at the business. This is a simple fact of life. Deterring theft and damage is only the most common job of police, though, their most critical job is deterring workers from challenging the boss’ right to ownership of commonly made products and commonly worked property. This comes alongside a superstructure of religion, entertainment, news, laws, and politics that all work to support the continuation of that idea of unassailable private property, and these things are done directly by or bankrolled by corporate executives. The tools, supported by the capitalist class, are then turned to the support of the police so they may continue to be watchdogs for capitalist business, coming full circle.

The private property we know of today is not the first thing police institutions were constituted to protect. In the United States, capitalism has been built on the racism of white supremacy and the slavery of Africans kidnapped from their homes and transported across the ocean to toil for free, under insanely cruel conditions, for a group of elites with lighter skin. State-administered slave patrols were created as early as the colony days to intimidate and return escaped slaves to their owners, serving this larger capitalist-white supremacist purpose. In the North, such patrols were used against organized labor, also. This should come as no surprise, but such organizations were the first US police forces. Those police organizations were meant to protect that people were property, and that the people had no business fighting this status. Not much has changed.

Today, the police departments are still the governmental agency tasked with enforcing the intimidation of the descendants of slaves and other oppressed, non-white minorities in the US. They are also tasked with preventing organization into any sort of effective resistance by black people and other minorities to their own oppression and repression, and this includes in the workplace.

This summer has led to the largest demonstrations in history against systemic racism worldwide over the murder of George Floyd, a justified reaction to police terror. Many corporations in these trying times have reached to their roots in the need to reinforce the police. For this, they have jumped into the breach to support the cops in their efforts to continue killing black people with no accountability, just so that these capitalists may continue being protected by the police in turn. This is where Starbucks, the wealthy coffee giant, fits into the picture.

This is a report of a mandatory meeting for Starbucks employees that took place at the height of the George Floyd rebellion. P is a person of color (POC) and, as such, had previous, negative encounters with the police in life. Starbucks negated these experiences by ignoring them and put forward the viewpoint of the cops. A viewpoint that implied that only the cops were worthy of support and implied that any negative interaction with the police was the fault of the individual, not the cops. In short, classic gas-lighting and victim blaming, different from abuse in a personal relationship in that the culture of abuse is backed by armed thugs rather than family structure or other poisonous social baggage.

The Meeting as Reported and written by P,

Speaking in reverential tones, reminiscent of a Southern Baptist minister as they finish their sermon and prepare the crowd to repent, the Chief of police wraps up her presentation to an audience of Starbucks employees interspersed with cops.

The men and women of policing show up. Every. Day. And they do it because it is a call to service. My hope for you is that you engage with the human being — behind the badge. And you maybe consider — that they may have just left that ‘call for service’ with that terrible tragedy with that woman who lost her husband. *dramatic pause*

And they’re merely coming into your space to just — *pause for effect continuing in a hushed tone*
get – a cup – of – coffee. And they might just need to — reset — before they then go out and engage with the next opportunity to engage with the public.”

This is an excerpt from a training video recently issued by Starbucks’ “corporate diversity complex” featuring a handful of cops from around the country. It arrived on the heels of an HR issue involving cops in one of their stores.

Following the murder by cop of George Floyd and over 50 others in 2020 alone, an awareness has dawned of just how vicious cops are in their interactions with people of color in the US. And, as a Starbucks employee and a person of African American descent with a personal history of race-based retaliation from cops, I was incensed after watching this “training video.” Outraged that the company I work for was forcing its employees to consider cops to be somehow more deserving than just regular people with regular jobs. More deserving than their victims.

Starbucks has a history of promoting “equality” — the fortune 500 corporation that made 26 billion in 2019 has created a very successful brand of championing the oppressed. The company has invested in an extremely comprehensive publicity campaign called Starbucks Equity and Inclusion Program. From their website on the Equity and Inclusion Timeline:

“On May 30, more than 2,000 partners and their families came together virtually to join a conversation about the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and other racial injustices that have shaken the entire country. Throughout the dialogue partners shared stories, expressed emotions, and supported one another. As CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to partners: “While we may not have all the answers, we know the path forward requires these courageous conversations with one another. As I shared at the close of today’s meeting it is, in part, our promise to one another as partners to live our mission and values daily.”

Keep in mind this “discussion” about the murders of civilians by cops, absent any opinion of the horror of innocent people being murdered for no reason and even though advertised on their web site, was not required. It was not well attended. What WAS recently required for all employees, though, was the Starbucks worker-training video featuring a handful of cops in supervisory positions around the country. Its attendance was mandatory just after the HR issue cropped up; Starbucks employees recently asked police officers in one of their coffee shops to leave after customers expressed to the baristas their discomfort in the presence of the cops.

Which is not at all surprising, given the current explosion of protests against police violence happening world-wide — against “law enforcement” who have made an everyday practice of abusing and murdering civilians, including children.

What IS surprising, however, claiming to “champion diversity,” is how Starbucks responded to this growing awareness of rampant police brutality. By requiring all employees to watch a training video on how hard police have it. This employer of larger than average numbers of LGBTQ, veterans, hearing impaired, people of color, disabled, and women — are gas-lighting its own employees — this most vulnerable portion of the population who regularly experience much higher incidents of police brutality based on nothing they have any control over — holding THEM accountable for and demanding they empathize with their abusers. The oldest trick in the book used by abusive perpetrators; gas-lighting.

From the Program

During today’s… discussion, you will:

*Understand the challenges of those who serve and protect our communities

*Build knowledge and appreciation of the roles in serving communities.

*Identify behaviors affecting perception of Starbucks, our brand and partners.

*Collaborate with others to elevate and enhance the communities we serve.

“Policing is a calling, I’ve always been committed to service. If policing is about anything, it is about service. We really are here to serve. I find nothing more rewarding than to give back to the community so that’s why I’m here.”

“I wanted to serve people, I LIKE people” … and really, I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people who touch other people’s stuff!” And so I wanted to be there for people.”

Serving? Intimidating. Shoving. Gassing. Terrorizing. MURDERING. The FBI publicly reports that law enforcement officials often have “active links” to white supremacist groups across the country. It’s not a secret, Howard!

Telling your employees to answer the following questions with your group is the coup de grace of gas-lighting:

Has a negative experience with a police officer created a bias for you? If you could go back in time and change the experience into a positive one what would that look like?”

Maybe you should be asking if the police, the ones with the guns and all the authority of the state behind them, chould change these experiences into positive ones by not oppressing and repressing African-American citizens? That could possibly change the experience into a positive one.

My co-workers, many of whom have experienced violence by US law enforcement, the central tool of class oppression in our capitalist society, have little choice but to put up with these mind games. It’s mandatory. With unemployment at an all time high in the US, a Starbucks worker is in “prime position” with slightly higher yet unlivable wages compared to the average pay of fast food workers — $11 an hour versus $9 an hour — and slightly better benefits than most fast food companies offer. It’s crazy-making — the irony of Starbucks employees being allowed gender assignment surgery in their health plans and also transgender employees being coerced into siding with the police who are notorious for their ill-treatment!

Do Starbucks workers deserve covert psychological violence, being made to side with and even feel responsible for the brutality they have experienced at the hands of their abusers over their lifetimes? NO worker does. And the practice of hiring consultants for millions to come into a corporation and “correct” the attitude of their employees to fit whatever narrative the company is selling is customary. These “corporate diversity complex consultants” are paid more for one “training” than a fast food employee can possibly make in 40 years. And all major corporations do it. Money well spent to keep automatons compliant, ignoring the fact they are being cheated of their value.

Being forced by a CEO worth $4 billion to watch this pro-cop capitalist propaganda piece on my first day back to work after being shut down for COVID19 and now being forced to work in a possibly unsafe environment, set off a cascade of dark, but eye opening, emotions. This video happened and suddenly I realized there is not a safe place for me anywhere. Not driving my car, not walking my dog, not at home, not at work. So many of us have been killed just doing the mundane everyday stuff. And I’m supposed to forgive them? It’s no different than being asked forgiveness by an abusive partner who keeps promising to stop but never will. The imbalance of being required by our employers to respect and care for our abusers is a dystopian nightmare and it needs to stop. We as workers are literally owned and told what to think about whom, how to behave — all to benefit the bosses. And to be sure, only the bosses. Cops are “called to serve.” We see who they’re serving and it’s not the workers.