Starbucks chairman: American values are 'hanging in the abyss' after Charlottesville violence (SBUX)

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.

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Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz appears on the Fox Business Network's Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo television program in New York City, November 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD)
Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, poses for a portrait at his new Teavana store in New York, October 23, 2013. Starbucks Corp, which has doubled down on its tea bet, is opening its first Teavana tea bar in New York City this week, aiming to do for tea, the world's second most popular beverage after water, what it has done for coffee. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD)
Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Howard Schultz, pictured with images from the company's new "Race Together" project behind him, speaks during the company's annual shareholder's meeting in Seattle, Washington March 18, 2015. Schultz has deftly navigated thorny issues such as gay marriage, gun control and Congressional gridlock, but his move to weigh in on U.S. race relations has brewed up a social media backlash. The company kicked off the discussion when it published full-page ads in major U.S. newspapers earlier this week with the words "Shall We Overcome?" at center page and "RaceTogether" and the Starbucks logo near the bottom. REUTERS/David Ryder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz speaks during the company's annual shareholder's meeting in Seattle, Washington March 18, 2015. Starbucks Corp will begin offering delivery in New York City and Seattle later this year, when it also plans to expand mobile order and pay services across the United States. REUTERS/David Ryder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, attends a dinner reception for Chinese President Xi Jinping in Seattle, Washington September 22, 2015. Xi landed in Seattle on Tuesday to kick off a week-long U.S. visit that will include meetings with U.S. business leaders, a black-tie state dinner at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama and an address at the United Nations. REUTERS/Jason Redmond
Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks poses during an interview with Reuters in Shanghai April 19, 2012. Starbucks Corp wants to make its mainland China expansion a family affair. The world's biggest coffee chain is opening cafes in China at a rate of one every four days in its quest to expand from about 570 shops today to more than 1,500 by 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS COMMODITIES)
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks to shareholders about the company's partnership with the Keurig single-serve coffee brewing machine, at the company's annual meeting of shareholders in Seattle, Washington March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz talks to shareholders at the Starbucks Annual Shareholders meeting at McCaw Hall in Seattle, Washington March 19, 2008. REUTERS/Marcus R. Donner (UNITED STATES)
Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz speaks during an interview in Tokyo April 13, 2010. Starbucks plans to sell its Via brand instant coffee in grocery stores and other retail channels outside its own outlets in Japan in the future, Schultz said. To match interview STARBUCKS/JAPAN REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Howard Schultz, the President of Starbucks Coffee Company takes a sip of coffee as he assists in the opening of his first coffee house in Paris, January 15, 2004. The coffee house is situated on Avenue de l'Opera at the heart of Paris' tourist district. REUTERS/Charles Platiau PP04010041 MAL/WS
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"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.

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