opinion   |   column

Starbucks's racial bias training is a good start



More than 8,000 Starbucks stores will close during the afternoon of May 29 for racial bias training after two black men were arrested recently for trespassing while sitting and waiting for a friend.

This is a good idea and important step, but ending these racial biases will take much more than one day of training and education.

The two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, said in an interview with the Associated Press that they feared for their lives. 

The event led Heather McGhee, the president of the equal rights think tank Demos, to develop the Starbucks racial-bias training.  

McGhee was not surprised by the event and said, “It called to mind some of my earliest memories as an African American of feeling unwelcome and being discriminated against in stores and restaurants and movie theaters.”



And while Starbucks is actually addressing the incident with a proportional response,  these kinds of racially prejudiced interactions have happened in thousands of other places that instead turn a blind eye to these kinds of discriminatory actions. 

This racial bias training is a good place to start. It could encourage interpersonal interactions among employees of different races and backgrounds. 

It could also lead to a review of rules and policies, such as if customers who have not yet made purchases can use the bathroom.

But researchers are skeptical about the positive bias changes espoused by these trainings. While some racial bias programs, such as a 12-week program studied by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, boasted a high bias reduction rate, other research suggests these trainings may actually reinforce negative stereotypes or might not have any effect on explicit biases and actions. 

Starbucks has always made a good example of treating its employees well. For example, they offer free tuition to Arizona State University for the duration of an employee’s academic program and health insurance to employees working at least 20 hours a week.

The decision to implement racial-bias training shows the company is aware of its mistakes and choosing to take the high road.

This shows dedication to being a part of the solution instead of ignoring the problem. It would be beneficial for other corporations to follow Starbucks' lead and implement similar forms of this racial-bias training.

That being said, the implicit biases common both in and out of the workplace must be rectified on a systemic level, not spot-treated in select companies and organizations. 

While addressing these changes through a training may be a good start, there needs to be a more open conversation about how to address racial biases in work places, especially customer-employee interactions.

This training may start the conversation about racial biases. However, there need to be more concrete steps to ensure that situations such as the one above will not occur again.  

For example, Starbucks also needs to ensure it hires a diverse staff and allows for people of different races and backgrounds to work together. It will lead for many different perspectives on the team and naturally help them face problems of racial bias.

Incidents of extreme racial bias in public places are all too common, and all corporations should take similar steps in trying to solve the problem.

Racial bias training will not fix the problem, but it is a good first step that proves Starbucks is dedicated to the cause.

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in Opinion



Comments powered by Disqus