Coffee chain Starbucks is closing 8,000 stores in the US for an anti-bias training session. The measure is meant to address the issue of unconscious racism in the workplace after the recent arrests of two black men.
Starbucks is closing 8,000 stores in the US for several hours on Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training in a bid to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome.
Following the arrests of two black men in a store in Philadelphia last month, the coffee chain's leaders apologized, with the two men in question later settling with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum. In the incident in April, an employee called the police, because the men, who had not made a purchase, refused to leave after they were denied use of the toilet.
The company has since announced that anyone can use its restrooms, even if they're not buying anything.
The training for Starbuck store workers on Tuesday is designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of another color, gender or identity.
According to documents Starbucks sent to store workers, employees are also advised to think carefully when dealing with disruptive customers. A guide tells staff to consider whether the actions they take would apply to any other customer in the same situation, adding that staff should dial 911 only if the situation seems unsafe.
The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers assisting Starbucks, in its studies points to a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behavior.
"The work that we want to do is not say you're a bad person, because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes," said the institute's co-founder and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson.
Anti-bias campaigners said one afternoon training at Starbucks stores "wouldn't really be moving the needle on the biases," arguing that a lot of employees receiving training wouldn't be there next year or two years down the line.
hg/jd (AFP, AP)