Corporations across the country invest in racial sensitivity programs that simply don’t work. Will it be any different for Starbucks?
The overpriced coffee chain has planned to close more than 8,000 of its stores in the United States on May 29 for an afternoon of “racial-bias education” training, the company announced on Tuesday in a statement.
That came in response to outrage over a Starbucks store manager in Philadelphia who called the police to remove two Black men who sat in the coffee shop without making a purchase, as they waited for a friend on Thursday. Their arrest triggered calls for a boycott.
“Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities,” Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson stated.
American companies spend an estimated $8 billion a year on diversity training, according to Time. Yet there’s clear evidence that the efforts to change bias attitudes, which are often ingrained from childhood, is no easy task.
A study of 829 companies over 31 years found that diversity training had “no positive effects in the average workplace,” especially when it’s mandatory. There’s a natural tendency for people to rebel when they feel scolded about their behavior, according to Harvard Business Review.
What’s more, White men, the group that these training programs typically target, often reject the training when told that they are racist or sexists.
“Some surmised that it (the training) meant that White men were villains, still others assumed that they would lose their jobs to minorities and women, while others concluded that women and minorities were simply too sensitive,” Time explained.
The biggest challenge, though, is erasing the years of implicit bias that persists despite training. People usually revert to what they’ve long believed about other races, the National Institute of Health has noted.
Starbucks expects to train nearly 175,000 employees in May, and new workers will also receive the training when they join the company. The global coffee chain is designing a curriculum with guidance from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-profile figures involved in civil rights and equality.
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