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What We Can Learn From the Starbucks Racial Bias Training

As of last week, Starbucks has announced that over 8,000 stores across the U.S. will close for employees to undergo racial bias training after numerous documented incidents of racism were captured on camera and circulated around the internet. The training is meant to address the blatant mistreatment of black people exhibited by employees, as management had been involved in calling the police in the first place. To some, it may be surprising that an establishment is able to consistently get away with racism, yet others may recognize this as a familiar experience in their own lives. However astounding this revelation may be, the shock is irrelevant to America’s continuous mistreatment of black people being blatantly approved by authorities and encouraged by society’s silence on this inequality.

The first incident arose when two men were arrested while waiting for their friends to arrive for a meeting at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson explained to Good Morning America that after being denied the bathroom code for not being paying customers, the two sat down and waited for their friends for two minutes before being approached by the police. Without explanation, the men were handcuffed and escorted out of the building and into the police car and taken to jail where they were detained for over seven hours.

In California, Brandon Ward was denied the code for the bathroom because he hadn’t purchased anything. Ward noticed that after having received his drink, a white man asked the manager for the bathroom code, which she gave to him before he purchased anything. When the man exits the bathroom, Ward begins recording, asking the man if he had bought anything. The man tells Ward he hadn’t, and Ward then asks the manager if she denied him the bathroom code because of the color of his skin, to which she replied he had to leave the store.

Both incidents had management directly involved in the persecution of black people for exhibiting behavior no different than that of white customers, yet numerous black men have been escorted out of Starbucks for partaking in its convenience. Not only is this telling of the intentions and training of one of the U.S.’s most popular coffee chains, it is indicative of the (not-so) subtle entwining of racism that affects our daily lives. A morning coffee routine, for many people, has become yet another evil they must endure for convenience sake. The conscious racial bias exemplified by Starbucks, as well as other establishments, is an unacceptable mentality that we have allowed to occur, instigated by managers that are training other employees with the same discrimination tactics used during segregation that kept black people from participating in society up until the late sixties. How is it that we, as a nation, promise an aura of freedom for all those seeking refuge, but fail even in the present day to promote a safe and inclusive atmosphere to those who call this pace home? The rate at which this problem was addressed once recorded and circulated on the internet was remarkable, which shows how influential the media can be when exposing aspects of society that are operating on a bias-motivated mentality. Proving that change comes from persistence, exposing the management for their obvious racism was effective in Starbucks attempting to resolve the issue with training, and continuing to call out those guilty of eliciting discrimination through social media exposure will help to universalize the unacceptability of racism.

Photo Credits: 1, 2 

Taylor is a junior at VCU majoring in English and caffeinated beverages. She likes reading books and writing short fiction as well as marathoning terrible reality television shows.
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