Starbucks to close over 8,000 shops for anti-bias training

Starbucks will have more than 8,000 stores nationwide on Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of the many steps the company takes to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where everyone is welcome.

After the arrests of two black men in Philadelphia last month at one of the stores, the coffee chain leaders apologized and spoke to the two men, but also a guide for activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum of over 175,000 employees.

That has a spotlight on the little-known world of “unconscious bias training”, which is used by many companies, police and other organizations to help address racism in the workplace. The training is usually designed to get people to open up about implicit prejudices and stereotypes in the encounter of people of color, gender, or other identities.

The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers in consultation with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as an attitude — positive or negative — or stereotypes a person has in the direction of a person or a group without you being aware of it. A general example, according to some of her studies, is a tendency that white people unconsciously associate black people with criminal behaviour.

Many retailers, such as Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training. Target says it plans to expand that training. Nordstrom has said it plans and improve the training after the issue of an apology to three young black people in Missouri that workers wrongly accused of shoplifting.

Anti-bias sessions, you can record personal reflections, explorations of feelings, and mental exercises. But one expert says that the training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged.

According to a video of the Starbucks training, there will be an explanation of Starbucks executives, and rapper/activist Common. From there, employees will “move to a real and honest exploration of bias” where, in small groups, they can tell how the issue arises in their daily work and life.

Starbucks has described it as a “collaborative and engaging experience for the store partners to learn together.” “

Developed with the feedback of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Perception Institute and other civil society interest groups, Tuesday’s four-hour session to give the employees an introduction to the history of the civil rights of the 1960s to the present. The employees will also be a short documentary film.

Alexis McGill Johnson, the Perception’s co-founder and executive director, says anti-bias training about awareness.

“The work that we want to do, is not to say that you are a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but to say this is the reason why your brain have these stereotypes,” she said.

Johnson refused to work on the details of the Starbucks training. But she said: “the Perception of the workshops usually are the mental exercises to show participants how bias creeps in in situations. A session may, for example, personal reflections, she said, such as “I was socialized to think about a group in this way.”

Johnson said that the real work is for employees to apply what they learn in their daily lives. She compared it with the exercise of a muscle. Some of the ways to practice against-stereotyping, she said, to look for something unique about a person who is outside their social identity.

“It may be that a question that elicits something more interesting than, say, the weather or the traffic,” Johnson said, stressing the need to “go beyond the superficial.”

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave and then was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by the police minutes after they are waiting for a business meeting. The incident was recorded by cell phones and went viral.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks this month for an undisclosed amount, and an offer of free training. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for the symbolic amount of € 1, and a promise from the officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Starbucks has announced that anyone can use the toilets, even if they are not something to buy. According to documents Starbucks sent for the saving of the workers, the employees also need to think carefully when dealing with disruptive customers. A guide advises staff to consider whether the actions they are taking is applicable to each and every customer in the same situation. They should dial 911 only if the situation seems unsafe.

Starbucks said the arrests would never have taken place and announced the mass closure of the shops for the afternoon of the training.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Washington in St. Louis, said people should not have too high expectations on this one day.

“We find that often diversity training has mixed effects, and in some cases, it may even backfire and lead the people who are already reactive to these points to get even more polarized,” Lai said.

An afternoon wouldn’t really “moving the needle on the bias,” especially when it’s a company with as many employees as Starbucks, he said. “A lot of those employees won’t be here next year or in two years or three years.”

Starbucks has said on Tuesday the sessions will serve as “a step in a long-term journey to make Starbucks even more inviting and safe for everyone.” It works with volunteer advisors, including Heather McGhee, president of the social advocacy organization Demos, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“One of the things Starbucks has to wrestle with is how to incorporate this kind of training in the onboarding of every employee,” Ifill said.

That requires a sustained effort, McGhee added.

“We have made very clear that education is not enough, and this must be part of a continuous evaluation of their policies,” McGhee said. “They really have to commit.”


AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.

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