Starbucks to close over 8,000 stores May 29 for racial bias education after 2 black men arrested

While I totally agree that a one-day training isn’t going to reverse employees’ racial bias, closing the majority of their stores for a day sends a powerful message to them: stop fucking up. This sort of behavior will destroy our company if we don’t fix it, and it’s up to the employees to fix it. Starbucks needs to have a zero-tolerance policy around racial bias.


I translate that as “We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this.” That is a philosophy which I have always rejected.

(Edit) Excellent article here:

Makes the point that Starbucks’ corporate image is all about making the white, professional demographic feel good and guilt-free about shopping there. I couldn’t agree more.

Well, the alternative of doing absolutely nothing seems to have paid off supremely well so far, so I can certainly understand your objection to any attempts to address the issue, however imperfect they may be.


The point of being aware of the implicit bias phenomenon is not to some how eliminate this in yourself. Eliminating something that is largely an unconscious effect is very difficult. What you might do instead is to not just react to this bias and then act in a racist way, but instead stop, think a second, and then not do the racist thing. We are very fortunately not required to go along with the first instinct that pops into our heads!

Being aware of implicit bias means we can take positive action to circumvent this effect. For example, since it has been shown that job applications with non-white sounding names get fewer call back, any company that is serious about tackling racist hiring patterns will anonymize incoming applications and then do their selection for whom to interview.

It is more about making a conscious effort to think things through and act correctly than somehow eliminate “bad” unconscious impulses! Which is also why it is so fundamentally uninteresting to ask if some person is “really racist” deep down inside somewhere. I don’t care! Its not important! Strive to not act racist, stop, think, act. Don’t just react!


If the effect of doing this is to make you, as a progressive consumer, happier about consuming the product of a business that does this, then success has been achieved.

Earlier in the thread, you said:

The incident isn’t just about the manager who called 911, it’s about that manager in a particular circumstance. If the person who was supposed to meet the two men who were kicked out was on time (or if the two men weren’t early) then the manager never would have done what they did. With a few managers per store, depending on their hours, and with 8000 stores, they may have 20k-30k employees who might have made that call. If the most racist 5% of those employees averaged one such incident every 20 years then this would be happening multiple times every month. So it’s totally plausible to think that even if that manager learned nothing from this event, they may well never cause another similar incident in their entire career - that it just wouldn’t come up in the same way.

So if we look at the question from a pure cynical business perspective, the goal of Starbucks isn’t to ensure their customers are treated respectfully, it’s to shift their most racist employees from being 1/20 employee-year PR disaster risks to being 1/100 employee year PR disaster risks (numbers are BS) without being able to identify who those most-racist managers even are. Firing one employee has an almost unmeasurably small impact towards that goal.

So I guess my point is that when you say you’d fire the employee responsible, I might in response say:

I translate that as “We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we should do this.”

That statement is a tool to ascribe negative qualities to people who say things that you disagree with. It contains no analysis of what is a good idea and what is not.


I think the goal is to 1.) minimize recurrences and 2.) help employees understand that its far easier to retain customers than to drive them away. (you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar). Starbucks has to present themselves as an outstanding, upstanding business in order to attract and retain people who are willing to pay large amounts of money for burnt coffee. So IMO, this was both a PR stunt, but also to potentially reduce the future occurrences of this type of incident.


Thanks for your reply and the link. I read the article you linked to. Interesting. I can understand why there is controversy. (I see the article was published in 2008. I wonder what, if anything, has changed since then?)

My own sense is that whatever the flaws of the test, it is undeniable that the US has big big issues around race that need to be addressed yesterday, and I think the test at the very least serves to get people thinking and talking about the issues in relation to their own attitudes, so to my mind that in itself is a good thing. (So I guess I’m with the researchers quoted who see its value as an educational device more than as a diagnostic device.)

I don’t know. I would guess there wouldn’t be a statistically significant difference, because as I understand it the test measures (or attempts to measure) ingrained, longstanding, unconscious attitudes, which probably aren’t going to change overnight (or in a month) from a one-afternoon training session.

Of course we don’t know what Starbucks’ training will be exactly, but I hope it will both help employees begin to see and understand their own assumptions/biases, and give them training in how to treat others well even though they themselves may harbor biases. In other words, give people the tools they need to change their behavior now, and let them know what’s expected of them as employees right now; ingrained beliefs/attitudes will take longer to change, maybe generations. And of course Starbucks will need to follow this up with ongoing training. This is just a start in the right direction.

I think a better measure of the training (rather than have employees take an implicit association test before and after) (and I’m making some assumptions about what the training may be) might be to survey customers of various races now, and then again a month after the training, as to how they felt treated when they visited a Starbucks—Did they feel welcome? Did they feel they were treated differently from the way that people of other races were being treated? Did they feel that they would be safe from harm or threat? Is anything worse now than it was before the training? etc. (I’m sure I’m missing some important things, but you get the idea.) And survey customers again after more training…


I agree that it is not a simple thing. but any policy implemented should be implemented impartially. Of course, it is hard to really get the back story on this one. If the manager has a history of bias incidents, that would be important. I guess there is also some possibility that this was not about bias, but instead about the actions or words of those specific customers. Once the manager asks them to leave, and they refuse, it is much harder to deescalate the situation.
I have been told that restrooms are only for customers. My response was to become a customer, by buying some token item. or by going somewhere else. I have no idea what would have happened if I had instead just sat down and refused to leave. It is certainly possible that my treatment would be different because of my ethnicity. I just don’t know. I would like to think that if I were a manager in such a situation, that I would treat everyone equally fairly. I hope I would, but that is not something I have experienced.

Two minutes seems like an awfully short period of time for things to escalate from “we walked in the door” to “I’m calling the cops on you”. I’ve spent longer marveling at the existence of kale chips.


I’ve spent at least that much time marveling that kale chips are even available for sale. I mean, I’ve made them at home, and those were great, but store bought? Blech! Never had a brand of them that struck me as even edible.

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Cue someone now questioning if the gentlemen were actually there at precisely 4:35, and not any earlier.

No matter how much undeniable, empirical evidence you present to some people, they simply refuse to believe that racial bias is definitively a factor.


Number 8? (And/or Number 1…)


Because a few dozen terrorists have snuck onto planes and killed passengers, we respond with the TSA.

Because a few thousand violent criminals have gotten across the border into the USA, some want to build a border wall.

These are both examples of treating an entire population as pre-criminals due to the actions of a few. Now, I’m certainly not saying that a day of sensitivity training is the equivalent of cavity searches at the airport, but it is similar in kind if much less so in degree. The assumption is that every Starbucks employee is a potential pre-criminal with respect to racist behavior.

And yes, I am well aware that there is a view, to which I do not subscribe, that every white American is a potential pre-criminal with respect to racist behavior. For those who subscribe to that view, the Starbucks day of training is not only a good idea, it perhaps should be made mandatory and more extensive for everybody.

Yeah yeah, we get it.

(Do you spend time on other less “PC” forums worrying about an impending “demographic winter”?)

(Also, your comparison false analogy is invalid.)


Like I said, if you feel better about going to Starbucks after this - mission accomplished!

It’s more about making sure that African-Americans* are more comfortable going to Starbucks after this incident. If that takes a day of discussing corporate policy on bathroom use and on when to call the cops along with discussions of implicit bias (which is more than just “all white people are racist”) and publicising the effort then it makes sense all around.

[* who might count @milliefink amongst their numbers]


You took a strange jump from what’s actually being discussed – Starbucks closing their stores for a company-wide training,which they’ve done repeatedly in the past successfully – to assuming that this is because they view all white people as potential criminals.

That is not what is going on. You invented that.

They are impressing on all employees of all races that incidents of racial bias are not to be tolerated and training them on how to avoid the warning signs of bias.


That’s an interesting point you bring up, what would make the white, professional demographic fell bad and guilty about patronizing Starbucks?

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The howls from the MAGATS have been deafening. And enlightening.