Is Starbucks’ Racial Bias Training Enough?
It’s hard to be engulfed in the news, on your phone or TV, and not hear about what recently transpired with one of the largest corporations: Starbucks. For a quick recap, two African-American men were wrongfully arrested at one of the chain’s Philadelphia stores. After doing nothing more than walking into the café and waiting for a colleague, the manager called the police after learning they didn't purchase anything. The police arrested the men upon arrival, which left Starbucks in a chaotic PR mess of racial profiling.
Starbucks immediately released a statement apologizing, stating the arrest was “reprehensible,” not at all a reflection of what the chain stands for, and that they are committed to finding a solution. As a result, they prompted an four hour-long “emergency training” session on May 29th, closing about 8,000 company-owned locations employing over 175,000 partners.
Is this anti-bias training the answer to fix this challenging situation? It is not. Many people are angry, and rightfully so. This one situation caused uproar, even among the highest profile of public figures. What is interesting is the varied viewpoints on this event. On one side, there are protesters ready to boycott and blame the chain, while others say Starbucks shouldn’t be blamed as a whole for the actions of one employee.
Celebrities such as Kevin Hart and Wendell Pierce took to Twitter with different views of the situation. Hart Tweeted, “Let's make one thing very clear....This is not a boycott @Starbucks situation....This is horrible management. The manager on duty was wrong. It's that simple...That's who needs to take responsibility for this wrong doing.” Pierce responded angrily at the chain, “Knock on a neighbor’s door get shot at for being Black. Then walk into a Starbucks and get arrested for being Black. I get tired of my White colleagues asking about racism in our lives when it’s so clearly on display.”
A simple four hour training is a start, but it is not enough. What occurred was unacceptable, implicit discrimination, and is a conversation that needs to continue. It happened and you cannot take that back. Now, as a corporation, what are you going to do to improve?
CEO Kevin Johnson and chairman Howard Schultz agreed that what happened allowed the company to reflect on their values, community, and culture, and has now prompted the continuing conversation of racial bias. They intend to make this training long-term and keep it an ongoing part of their growth as a company. As one of the largest coffee chains worldwide, the company is taking a hard look in the mirror, forcing changes to happen now.