Starbucks’ former CEO and chairman Howard Schultz spoke out against what he calls the current normalization of racist behavior in a company-wide forum.
“The moral fiber, the values, and what we as a country have stood for is literally hanging in the abyss,” Schultz said, according to a Starbucks press release published on Wednesday. “We are at a critical juncture in American history. That is not an exaggeration.”
According to the coffee giant, the hour-and-a-half forum held in Seattle was a space for employees to share their thoughts following a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. More than 500 employees attended, with an additional 1,000 people in overflow areas.
“I come to you as an American, as a Jew, as a parent, as a grandparent, as an almost 40-year partner of this company,” Schultz said to open the event. “I come to you with profound, profound concern about the lack of character, morality, humanity and what this might mean for young children and young generations.”
While Schultz has previously criticized Donald Trump, in this case he said he would allow the president’s actions and words to speak for themselves.
According to Starbucks, Schultz then added:
“What we witnessed this past weekend…is against every sense of what is right. My fear is not only that this behavior is being given permission and license, but its conduct is being normalized to the point where people are no longer hiding their face. We’ve all seen pictures of the KKK in the South … they were hiding because they were afraid to be outed. People are no longer afraid.”
Starbucks is known its progressive politics, and has held forums to discuss issues such as race and police brutality in the past.
In January, Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees after Trump issued an executive order barring refugees from entering the US, sparking conservative boycott threats. Last year, Schultz endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president.