Coffee shop owner fires husband for ‘repeating’ racial slur


The owner of a San Francisco java joint has fired her husband from a construction job at her company for repeating a racial slur during a confrontation with a black man.

Eileen Rinaldi, who has operated Ritual Coffee Roasters since 2005, announced her husband’s termination in a lengthy Instagram post Tuesday, detailing the confrontation John Rinaldi had with a customer over a parking spot outside the company’s warehouse in May.

“He said that during the altercation, an individual called John a racial epithet,” Eileen recalled in the post. “John said he then made the horrible mistake of repeating the racial slur back to the individual, something that he never should have done.”

John Rinaldi, who ran an experimental bid for mayor in 2007, was overseeing a freelance construction project at the warehouse, but will no longer work for Ritual in any capacity, his wife said.

“Words have power – and the word he repeated is undoubtedly racist and harmful,” Eileen’s post continued. “To me, it means hate and dehumanization. I am thinking about and gutted by the unimaginable pain, anger, and trauma this word has caused throughout history and in every moment a white person uses it.”

Ritual Coffee's Valencia St. location in San Francisco.
Ritual Coffee’s Valencia Street location in San Francisco.
Google Maps

John Rinaldi, meanwhile, confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle he used the epithet after a black man first called him the racial slur, saying he repeated it but then “immediately” regretted his actions.

“[He] asked me and I quote: ‘What’s your name, bitch ass n—–? To which I, unfortunately replied, ‘Yup, that’s my name. Bitch ass n—–,’” he wrote the newspaper in an email. “This was an unfortunate incident over a parking spot. I have apologized for repeating the derogatory word that was shouted at me. A word I never, ever use.”

The firing comes a year after the coffee shop’s employees launched an email campaign raising concerns about diversity, prompting Eileen Rinaldi to commit to “creating a better work environment” for employees of color.

Eileen Rinaldi and managers called every employee following the May incident to “let them know that I’m welcoming and wanting to talk” with anyone who had questions or concerns over the incident, the Chronicle reported.

“Staff have shared with me that they are really happy with the results we have seen from our work, especially over the past year,” Eileen wrote the newspaper in an email.

The coffee shop owner acknowledged her prior “mistakes” without elaborating in her Instagram post, but said she’s committed to provide customers with an “anti-racist, inclusive and equitable” place for coffee.

“And I embrace that this work has no closure,” Rinadi’s Instagram post continued. “We need to work on it every month and year and for the life of the business.”



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