A barista calls the cops on two black men waiting for a friend and Starbucks responds with implicit bias training to help employees recognize subconscious racism. Is this response good enough? Information on its own does not change attitudes and behavior. So, what’s the answer? According to neuroscience, we need new neural pathways – and personal experiences are the only thing that can make it happen.
Starbucks’ Problem is Our Problem
By now we’ve all seen the news. Two young men sitting and talking in a Starbucks in Philadelphia, waiting for a friend before ordering coffee. Haven’t you done the same? But in the upscale Center City neighborhood, apparently you can’t be black and not buy. While some of us happily abide by the basic courtesy of waiting for others before ordering, these guys had the cops called on them by the store’s barista. According to a Washington Post article; “Nowhere else in Philadelphia are African Americans more disproportionately stopped by police than in the Center City neighborhood”.
The response was immediate. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a statement on Saturday apologizing for the incident. The apology was followed with an announcement that Starbucks will close 8,000 U.S locations on the afternoon of May 29 to provide implicit bias training to 175,000 employees aimed at “preventing discrimination in our stores.”