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Starbucks addresses racial bias during sensitivity training

You may remember an incident a few months ago during which two African American men were arrested at a Starbucks. Their alleged crime? Reportedly, they were only sitting at a table waiting for a friend and had not yet ordered anything. The coffee shop’s manager called law enforcement, who arrived and took the men away in handcuffs. Like other Californians, you may have felt outraged to hear about this egregiously racist treatment of people who didn’t commit any actual crime.

NPR reports that officials from Starbucks responded by apologizing and settling with the men out of court. They also offered to pay for their college educations and reported that the manager is no longer working for the coffee chain. What else did the company do to address racist attitudes at work, you may wonder?

Training video highlights problems people of color experience

Starbucks recently closed over 8,000 stores across the nation for a voluntary employee sensitivity training program. During a video shown in the program, people of color shared their difficult stories. One man talked about constantly having to be conscious of appearing nonthreatening in public, watching the tone of his voice and keeping his hands in view so nobody would think he was stealing anything. It may also be your experience to encounter suspicion wherever you go or racial prejudice among your co-workers.

Some claim that short-term training does not offer long-term benefits, especially when some people have such ingrained beliefs regarding their perceptions of others. However, the designers of the training program say that at the least, hearing about these difficult experiences may spark awareness of the difficult issues you and others face, and might encourage positive discussions and ideas on combating racism at the workplace and in public.

Racial discrimination is against the law

The law prohibits racial discrimination at work. Understanding your rights is the first step toward protecting them.

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