Yesterday Starbucks closed most of its stores in the USA to provide anti-bias training for their staff. This was part of their response to the incident at one of their locations in Philadelphia where the police were called and two Black men were arrested as they waited for their friend.
Starbucks is to be applauded for addressing the incident and for using it as an opportunity to do better and help their employees be more aware – and contribute to a culture shift both in their company but also in communities and across the country (and ours next).
Unconscious bias is real. It’s one of the precursors to discrimination and isms.
And it’s insidious because we are all swimming in the same soup of messages that overtly and covertly tell us who has more value and who has less.
I had the opportunity to be interviewed on this topic by Gill Deacon on CBC’s Here and Now yesterday. You can listen to the clip here.
Training is a start
One of the things I’m pleased to see in this Starbucks saga is the acknowledgment that this training is a start. Some employees will go away with a crack in their awareness that will challenge them to see more. Others will need more time. But it seems that Starbuck is aware that this training will not fix the problem. Thank you!
If done well, and if done in conjunction with adequate support, this training can be the beginning of many powerful conversations, dialogues and opportunities for people to see more, see each other better and understand that the world is not experienced the same way by everyone because of our identities – in this case because of skin colour. Once we understand that (and why), we can begin to examine our part in it, challenge our own bias, be willing to be challenged by others, and become part of the solution; to create more equitable and inclusive spaces.
After training, then what?
What is adequate support?
– A commitment to having and supporting difficult conversations.
– A commitment to train people across the country in the various locations to have those conversations well – either to start them, or to help their staff navigate them.
– More professional development.
– Infusing this awareness and commitment into all facets of the organization.
– Being willing to look at policy as well as practice; to examine how systemic racism impacts recruitment, hiring, mentorship, and promotion – as well as customer service.
– Accountability at all levels.
What does support for diversity, equity and inclusion look like in your company?
Time will tell where the level of commitment lies, but in the meantime I am heartened to see a company that is willing to acknowledge the problem, talk about it, train all of their staff (and take a hit in sales), and commit to doing more.
How is your company raising awareness and understanding about unconscious bias and contributing to positive change?
If it isn’t on your radar, or it’s something you would like to explore, or need support with, please contact me to set up a time to chat.
Starbucks training in Canada…
Next month Starbucks will be training their Canadian staff. The only thing I think that needs to be different “up here” is the Canadian context re: racism, anti-Black racism and racism against Indigenous peoples. We have our own history on these issues in Canada (listen to my radio interview to hear more) and that history needs to be acknowledged so that we can begin to see and acknowledge the ways racism still impacts systems, structures, laws, and the way we see People of Colour, Black people and Indigenous people today. It is when we see and acknowledge things that we can begin to change them.
I’m looking forward to seeing the ripple effects of powerful conversations.
PS – Yes, I did hear what happened with the Roseanne show on ABC. I’ll write about that next!