On May 29th, 2018, Starbucks will close 8,000 locations across the United States for an entire afternoon in order to educate up to 175,000 employees about racial bias.
The announcement comes on the heels of a fresh controversy involving the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia location who had the police called on them by the store’s manager who accused them of “trespassing.”
Witnesses can be seen in video footage protesting their arrest on the grounds that they had just been waiting for a friend and had done nothing wrong.
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing. pic.twitter.com/0U4Pzs55Ci
— Melissa DePino (@missydepino) April 12, 2018
In a statement from Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, he stated “I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it… Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
This training will be developed in part by Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. They will be joined by executives from the Equal Justice Initiative and Demos, the progressive think tank, as well as Eric Holder, the former Attorney General of the United States.
Training around racial biases in the workplace is gaining traction at many companies, although with so many programs in their infancy it has been hard to judge whether or not these kinds of training have been effective in teaching employees to recognize and reform their racial prejudice or just suppress it and have it manifest in different ways.
A recent study about modern universal bias training from Queen Mary University of London concludes “What is the point of UBT if the measurement technique shows everyone is biased, there is no proven link between knowing about bias and changing behaviour, only one sub-group (aversive racists) are likely to self-reflect enough to perhaps change their behaviour, and the type of change will likely have least impact on the most pernicious everyday racism in the workplace?”
The manager who called the police in this particular incident has since left Starbucks by “mutual agreement,” and will not be participating in the new training being implemented by the company.