“At one point a girl at my table actually had to get up and leave because video after video they showed black people being assaulted by police or black people being verbally assaulted and white people being racially biased toward people of color,” a young black female Starbucks employee told Philly Mag after being forced to take part in their “racial sensitivity” training course this week.
Starbucks billed Tuesday’s training as “one step” in addressing racial bias, and national reports have called the company’s move an “important start.” But for two Philadelphia Starbucks employees I talked to, the training merely “targeted” people of color and exacerbated racial tensions.
I spoke with the baristas separately on Tuesday evening after they attended the training at a Sheraton hotel with employees from about four districts in the region. Between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., they had sat with fellow employees listening to a few presentations, watching a number of videos, journaling, and occasionally talking to colleagues and session leaders in small self-guided groups.
(Starbucks has made all materials from the training session available here.)
Both baristas told me that the training had missed the mark completely.
Instead of addressing racial tension head on, the training mostly “beat around the bush,” said one of the baristas, a 24-year-old Latino man we’ll call Jamie. “I was really disappointed when I walked out of there because I was expecting so much more,” said the other barista, an 18-year-old black woman we will call Tina.
[…]”It felt like we were off task the entire time because we didn’t reflect on the situation itself,” said Tina, who has worked at Starbucks for a year. “The training materials focused a lot on police brutality, which had nothing to do with the incident that happened.”
According to Jamie, the Starbucks representatives leading the session got close to talking about the arrest of the two black men only when attendees brought it up.
The Focus on Police Brutality Was Upsetting
“The videos of cops knocking people down and fighting people were really disturbing,” Tina explained. “I told them I didn’t like the video and they told me they understood and that I was open to give my opinion.” What does watching videos about police brutality have to do with the situation that happened, Tina said she kept asking herself. “They went too deep into it and missed the point all at the same time.”
“At one point,” said Jamie, “a girl at my table actually had to get up and leave because video after video they showed black people being assaulted by police or black people being verbally assaulted and white people being racially biased toward people of color. It offended her. She left after that.”
The Training Felt More Like an African-American History Class
“We got too deep into black history and got past what I thought was the point of the session,” Tina said, pointing out that one of the videos they watched went back to lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s.
[…]As Starbucks previously announced, the training videos featured the rapper Common, but it was unclear to the baristas why he was included. “It made it seem like they were pandering to us as a people, which is rude,” said Jamie. “What does Common know about anything that we’re going through? What does he have to do with anything?”
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
June 1st, 2018