On September 26, Jake Kim, a Korean-American NYC resident, posted about an experience he had at an undisclosed Starbucks location wherein he encountered racism from the staff. The baristas had written “Ching” on his cup, despite Kim telling them his name and even spelling it out for them.
Unsatisfied with how the location had handled the situation at the time of the event and afterwards via phone, Kim called the corporate Starbucks office, only to be offered a $20 gift card for the racist exchange. He turned down the offer and, resolute in his decision to do something more, he took to FaceBook to post about the incident and vowed to seek legal action.
Since Tuesday, his post has been liked over 11,000 times and shared by more than 5,000 people. It has been covered by news outlets such as Business Insider and Delish. Starbucks has weighed in on the situation via a comment on Kim’s FaceBook post:
“We have absolutely no tolerance for any kind of discrimination in our stores and are looking into this immediately. We look forward to connecting with you in person and making things right.”
NextShark reached out to Kim for updates and clarifications on the story.
Kim stated that he has connected with Starbucks, but due to scheduling conflicts they have not yet had time to meet. “I’ve delayed a meeting for now, but it will happen,” he said on October 1 via a FaceBook call.
Kim further elaborated on the events of the day:
“A few people have asked me how I was able to take a video if I was talking on the phone. I want to say that I had been on the phone with my mom for a family emergency. I had been on the phone for over an hour. After talking for so long, I was very thirsty, so I wanted to order a drink.
“I didn’t have my phone up to my face — instead, I had my earbuds in my ears. When I got to the register, I took one of the earbuds out. I gave the worker my order and said my name twice. The worker didn’t understand. I told my mom in Korean ‘give me one second’ and then I spelled my name to the worker ‘J – A – K – E’. Again, this was after I told her my name twice already.
“After ordering, I went outside, ended the call, and went back in. That is when I saw the cup with the word and started recording on my phone. I went home, but it still didn’t feel right. That’s when I called the manager.”
When asked about the location of the Starbucks in question, Kim stood firm on his decision to not reveal any identifying information:
“I don’t want to disclose the location because they don’t deserve this attention. It was just one person. There’s a lot of ways that people can think about the problem and what if someone goes to argue with them? That will make more problems. I want to solve the problem with the company, worker, and manager. If I say the location, I cannot solve the problem.”
One aspect of his initial account raised some eyebrows: “I love the diverse culture here in the States and have respect for all the race and religion. I guess it’s the uneducated minorities that makes the world dirty #Terrible #racismstarbucks #racist #starbucks #racism #dirty #raciststarbucks”. While some commenters gave him the benefit of the doubt, others believed he was making a racist comment about the African-American person who served him the offending cup.
When asked about this, Kim stated that he did not direct this comment at African-Americans, rather a small subset of people that can belong to any race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation who happen to use racism in any setting. “English is my second language. My English is not good like other Americans. I didn’t mean to say any bad things. At the moment, I was so upset, so my word choice became harder. The words did not come easily to me and the words I chose did not end up being good words. I apologize if it was taken to mean the wrong thing — I did not mean it about African-Americans.
“I 100% respect African-American culture. I love it. I am a musician, and I have grown up with R&B, soul, and other types of music that has come from this culture. I am here to learn more about these genres. I am so sorry to the people who thought that I meant something racist, because I did not.”
When asked what he thought of people who had told him to just “get over it” because “it wasn’t that big of a deal”, Kim had this to say:
“Historically, in this country, a lot has happened when it comes to race. I understand this country is a democracy, meaning everyone has a right to be equal and to feel equal. I just want to tell them, if I feel like I don’t have equality, that’s not what this country stands for.
“Our skin color is different, but we’re not bad people for that so we have the right to equality. If I get the feeling that people agree that it’s a real problem, then I think my case would already be finished.”
When asked what Kim wanted to see come out of this situation, he said the following:
“What I would like to see in conclusion to this problem is that people have to know that racism in America also happens to Asian people as well. Not just Black and White, also Mexican, Korean…there’s a lot more. Racism is not a simple thing.
“Black Lives Matter feels this way — that they are not being treated equal and that this is not what this country stands for. So they are speaking up.
“If I speak up, maybe there will be some change.”