Note from BW of Brazil: Nothing surprising here; another day, another example of how you treated in Brazil if your skin and features don’t allow you to pass for white. Another category noted here is that of a white couple experiencing daily treatment of black people through their adopted child (see here, here and here). Just for the record, although Starbucks is not a regular destination in my day (the prices are absurd in Brazil’s Starbucks), the times I’ve been there, I usually note that I am the only the black person in the place. Go figure…Could it also be that Starbucks employees aren’t accustomed to seeing black faces in their stores because the place, image, and reputation attract a primarily white clientele?
Curitiba family accuses Starbucks store of racism against black child
One of the security guards asked her to leave the store.
Courtesy of Tribuna PR with additional information from Gazeta do Povo
The parents of an 11-year-old black girl say their daughter suffered racial discrimination at the Starbucks store in the Jardins neighborhood in southern São Paulo on the 15th (of July). According to Jorge and Tatiane Timi, who are from Curitiba (see note one), the girl, who is adopted, was mistaken for a beggar by an employee. The situation happened after the girl had left the bathroom. One of the security guards asked her to leave the store.
“My daughter was two, three meters from me. I arrived, asked what was happening and he asked who the child was. I replied that she was my daughter. He glanced around the shop as if he were looking for a black couple, and asked again. I replied again that she was my daughter,” Timi reported.
According to the father, security justified following management orientation. The manager, in turn, replied that he was complying with the establishment’s own rules. The Military Police was deployed at the time and an incident report was recorded at the scene of the crime.
“Our daughter was born from our heart and you cannot imagine the pain we feel with this attitude of racism and prejudice. The security guy took our daughter’s arm and said she had to leave and that the place does not admit beggars,” Tatiane said in an interview with Banda B radio. “Imagine how our little girl felt. In shock, she couldn’t move.”
The girl’s parents, who live in Paraná and spent a weekend in the capital city of São Paulo, were revolted and called the police to record an occurrence. In addition, they have enlisted lawyers to file criminal charges for racism and racial profiling against the company.
Through Facebook, Jorge Timi thanked the Military Police for the assistance. “We cannot tolerate racial discrimination in our country,” he wrote. According to Tatiane, the daughter is still frightened by the episode and wonder all the time why they did this to her. “We’re trying to distract her, but she’s having trouble sleeping and eating.”
On the same day, Timi said he was personally sought by a Starbucks employee who promised to take action on the situation. Three days later, a company operations coordinator in Brazil sought out the family, lamenting the “unpleasant incident.”
“I replied to him that an unpleasant incident is burning your tongue with hot coffee and not what happened in the store,” the father reported. “It’s hard. My daughter is suffering a lot from this, my wife is suffering a lot from this. We all are,” he said. “But we’re getting a lot of support, too.”
“This is racism. We’re going to take this to the final consequences. And so that it does not repeat, we’re spreading the case now,” said Tatiane.
The company stated that the accusation is serious, “and in no way matches the values and principles that guide our values” and will be investigated. “If there is a feeling on the part of the family that the experience was not pleasant, we certainly did not reach what was expected and so we are carrying out a complete investigation of what happened,” read the statement. Starbucks reiterated its commitment to “diversity and inclusion” and said it would not tolerate “any deviation from those values and principles.”
The note went on to state:
“It is with this mutual involvement that we are proud to have created an environment where we feel comfortable meeting friends, family or business partners and where we are certainly treated with the respect and dignity we deserve regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or age.”
According to the father, a doctor, the family has already filed criminal proceedings against the store manager. “We thought a lot before releasing this, but we decided it was important not to happen to other people again,” Timi said.
Note from BW of Brazil: What more can be said about this case? Well, in fact, quite a bit. First, let me say, I didn’t translate the full statement issued by Starbucks because I get tired of wasting my time with the standard, typical rhetoric of these establishments. The note is always the same. Like other places of business, Starbucks also claims to welcome diversity and accept all regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, blah, blah, blah, but ask yourself, why did security automatically assume because a black girl was in the store that she had to be a beggar? The girl has white parents, one of whom is a doctor, so we can’t assume she was dressed in worn-out clothing. We also know that when white people get back to their normal lives after having fallen on hard times and becoming beggars or addicts, no one would assume that they were ever down and out. Why is that?
The last thing I want to mention here is that although the parents in the case can be commended for exposing the case, it doesn’t really prove a lot. I obviously don’t know these people, but I would ask if, before they decided to adopt a black child, when they experienced racist incidents or comments happening to other black people with whom they had no relationship, did they speak up or take those cases to the police as well? Or were these hypothetical incidents of “it doesn’t affect me, I’m white”? This is one of the reasons, contrary to what the father in this case said, this type of incident will continue to happen every day in Brazil.
- The capital city of the state of Paraná in southern Brazil.