Starbucks Employees Complain About Racial Bias Training: Seemed Like They ‘Were Pandering to Us as a People’

In an apparent effort to restore its public image, Starbucks closed stores last month in order to hold “racial bias training” for employees.

CEO Kevin Johnson described the training as a way to “ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”

But for two of its minority employees in Philadelphia, the training made them feel awkward and uncomfortable. 

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“It made it seem like they were pandering to us as a people, which is rude,” a 24-year-old barista who is Latino told the Philadelphia Inquirer

The man, whom the Inquirer called Jamie, was referring to how Starbucks featured the rapper Common in its training videos. “What does Common know about anything that we’re going through? What does he have to do with anything?” he asked.

An 18-year-old woman who is African-American, whom the Inquirer called “Tina,” said she was disappointed with the training and “was expecting so much more.”

Tina recalled how the company delved “too deep” into African-American history and showed “disturbing” videos of police brutality.

“They went too deep into it and missed the point all at the same time,” she said. She asked herself why the company showed videos of police brutality in response to the situation that prompted the trainings in the first place.

The training came in response to an incident at a Philadelphia store where a manager called the police on two African-American men.

The manager reportedly called the police after one of them tried to use the bathroom without purchasing anything.

Johnson apologized and announced the training which, according to Tina, focused on identifying one’s biases. The term the company used for this was “color brave,” something that Tina saw a problematic.

“How are you telling me how I should feel in my skin? That was just one of the terms going around that I didn’t like. Maybe it could be ‘color awareness,’ but not ‘color brave,'” she said.

Tina and Jamie weren’t the only ones to question Starbucks’ show of racial sensitivity. In a letter released on the day of trainings, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King complained that the company wasn’t doing enough to address racism.

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“If you think this public relations fix means Starbucks is no longer complicit in racism, it’s time to wake up and smell your own coffee,” the letter, signed by King and others, read. 

The letter blasted the company’s support for Planned Parenthood which, it said, had a racist founder. “Margaret Sanger’s stated agenda was to eradicate the African-American population,” it said.

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