Starbucks chairman: Trump's rhetoric partly to blame for 'racial divide'

Starbucks chairman: Trump's rhetoric partly to blame for 'racial divide'
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Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz said on Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE's rhetoric on race is partly to blame for the country's "racial divide."

Schultz said he believes the president has given people license to copy the "behavior and language that comes out of this administration," in an interview with CNN Tuesday.  

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"Having said that, the racial divide and the inequities that exist between people of color and caucasians in America is a problem that's existed for quite some time and I think — we have to ask ourselves a very important question and that is, what kind of country do we want to live in?" Schultz added. 

"And from my perspective, we want to live in a country in which we love and respect every American."

Schultz's interview comes as Starbucks plans to close all 8,000 company-owned stores Tuesday afternoon for anti-bias training. More than 175,000 employees will take part.

The effort is in response to an incident in which two African-American men waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested.

Schultz called the events in Philadelphia reprehensible in a letter explaining why Starbucks was holding anti-bias seminars for employees.

"Discussing racism and discrimination is not easy, and various people have helped us create a learning experience that we hope will be educational, participatory and make us a better company," Schultz said. 

Asked whether Trump can do anything to improve race-based issues, Shultz said the president can do it by putting "humanity at the center of our conversation." 

"If the White House and the president would view through the lens of humanity the policies that I think are so important to the future of the country, whether it's immigration, whether it's trade, all of these things have such rhetoric to it and the political class is not helping, we're sitting today as an example with almost $21 trillion of debt," said Schultz. 

Trump has previously taken credit for black unemployment falling to the lowest reported level since 1972. He tweeted "Lowest black unemployment in history!” in February, which appeared to reference numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the figure had fallen to 6.8 percent in December.

But Schultz pushed back against those claims when asked if Trump deserved credit. 

"You think when you have 5 million young Americans opportunity youth not in school and work, many of which are people of color, when you have almost 45 percent of households in America that don't have $400 for an emergency, when you have a mental health crisis in America, when you have a homeless crisis in America, let's go a different way," Schultz said. 

This story was updated at 3 p.m.