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The Impact of Starbucks' Bias Training

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

More than 8,000 Starbucks stores closed for several hours this afternoon so the company could provide employees with training about bias, an effort prompted by the incident in Philadelphia where two black men were arrested for simply being inside the store.

More than 175,000 company employees undertook the training, which the company said would "address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome."

Here's a video produced by Starbucks to preview what its training would look like. I recommend that you take a look. It was a worthy endeavor and should be emulated by other companies large and small across the nation.

Here's an article from CNN Money that delves inside similar training programs conducted by Google, Microsoft and Emtrain, an online provider of courses on sexual harassment, racial bias and other workplace ethics topics.

All of this is to address the issue of unconscious bias, a topic explored in yesterday's blog by guest author Stacy Fitzgerald who questioned whether such incidents as occurred in Starbucks are the result of unconscious or explicit bias. Fitzgerald tended toward the latter, no doubt because as a professional woman of color she has experienced such incidents many times in her daily life.

I"m sure that in all too many instances she is right. Prejudices are built into our DNA, it seems, and the Donald Trump presidency is bringing it out into public view, perhaps more so than in a long time.

I moved from Maryland to South Carolina almost two years ago so we could be near my wife, Jackie's, family. Soon I began playing senior softball with a great group of men, many of whom have become my friends.

But the day after Trump's election, one of the players made a racial and sexist remark that I overheard. "I feel great," commented one of his teammates who was part of the conversation. "Now I feel like we can say whatever we want."

I could see that long-held prejudices that perhaps had not been so openly expressed were now considered appropriate. I shuddered at the thought and the fear of what would come. My fears have been justified. Donald Trump's own racism encourages others who may have stayed silent in the past. That is a tragic consequence and all too often it plays out in dangerous, life-threatening situations.

But, whether incidents such as the Starbucks arrests or the other incidents outlined in Fitzgerald's blog yesterday are unconscious or explicit really doesn't matter. The fact is that this bias exists and it is harmful. Starbucks is one company that is facing that head-on. I hope many others will follow their example.

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