Posted on May 30, 2018

4 Starbucks Employees on What the Racial-Bias Training Was Really Like

Amanda Arnold, The Cut, May 30, 2018

On May 29, more than 8,000 Starbucks nationwide closed for mandatory “racial-bias education” {snip}. So how did it go? To find out, we asked four Starbucks employees around the country about their experiences.

California location: “I kept thinking, ‘I wish this were the job of our nation’s educators.’”

They showed a very well-produced video about the history of denying service based on race that was hosted by Common! Then they broke down the science of bias or prejudice against differences and had us think about the times we felt unwelcome. {snip}

I do think Starbucks has good intentions with what they’re trying to do, and I think the training will combat bias. A lot of my co-workers actually shed tears and shared parts of their lives with us. {snip}

Indiana: “I’m hesitant to praise Starbucks as trailblazing fighters against racial bias.”

{snip} Hearing testimony from some of my co-workers that are people of color was essential to the program. However, a few of my co-workers and I found the terminology “color brave” that was used to be strange. It was meant to serve as an antithesis to the idea of being “colorblind” regarding race, but we felt that it was an offensive way to approach viewing other races.

Although I found the training to be an overall positive and well-constructed experience, I’m hesitant to praise Starbucks as trailblazing fighters against racial bias. {snip} I question the company’s motives this time.

Florida: “The training was a waste of four hours.”

I am half Mexican and grew up in poverty, so diversity, bias, and judgment are things I’m familiar with. So for me, the training seemed very repetitive. It talked about the bias and racism towards mostly black people, but others as well, even though there are laws that should be preventing this.

The training mostly wanted to remind us that each person is different and unique — that we should embrace these differences. {snip}

Something that bothered me about the training was that they didn’t really give specifics of how to approach certain situations, or how they planned as a company to include everyone, except that everyone is a customer that walks into our store, even if they don’t buy anything. Another thing that upset me was that they expect us to always be on and be welcoming even when customers don’t treat us with respect and dignity in return. There have been instances in certain stores where I have worked where customers have threatened partners or even yelled at partners based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation, and oftentimes higher-ups don’t stand up for that partner. In my opinion, the training was a waste of four hours.

Minnesota: “A lot of the baristas at my store hoped it would touch base on other POC and marginalized people.”

My specific store is fortunate enough to be very diverse in not only color, but also in regards to religion, gender, and orientation. The vast majority of our regular customers are Somalian. When you come to work at our store, if you’ve ever had preconceived notions or whatever beliefs about Somalians or Muslims, you’re forced to confront them.

Starbucks’ training was blanketed to every store, instead of being tailored to different demographics. {snip} there are probably stores in America where the majority — if not all — baristas are POC. That they had to sit through a four-hour training on “how not to be racist” is kind of ridiculous.

The training only really covered how to not be racist towards African-Americans. {snip} Starbucks did say near the end of the training that they are planning on continuing these trainings. We hope to see more intersectionality in the future.