Starbucks staff to get 'racial bias training'

Starbucks staff to get 'racial bias training'
Starbucks staff to get 'racial bias training'
Image: 123RF/Natthapon Ngamnithiporn

Staff at Starbucks in South Africa will‚ along with their colleagues abroad‚ undergo “racial bias training” after a furore over the arrest of two black men at a coffee store in the US.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia‚ Pennsylvania‚ on April 12 after the store manager called the police. The two had been waiting for a meeting. The incident was captured on video and went viral. 

The company faced a backlash‚ with many people threatening to boycott stores.

Communications manager for Starbucks South Africa Fareed Mohammed said the company will close more than 8 000 stores in the US to train staff about racial bias. Staff in South Africa would undergo the same training.

“I can confirm that in response to an incident in one of our stores in Philadelphia‚ Starbucks will be closing its more than 8 000 company-owned stores in the US on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores‚” said Mohammed.

“The training is currently being developed and will initially roll out to partners in the US and once complete‚ Starbucks will make the education material available to other companies‚ including licensee partners like Taste Holdings‚ for our employees and leadership. At this stage‚ the South African stores and other stores outside the US will not be closed on May 29‚” he said.

He said more details would be made available once the training kit had been received. “If anything‚ we are proud that we have a diverse group of partners (baristas) who understand the local cultural intricacies. They also live the Starbucks values of mutual respect and create a welcoming environment for our customers‚” he added.

Following the incident in the US‚ the coffee store apologised to the arrested pair.

The company tweeted: “We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday.” 

The company then announced days later they will be closing their USA stores for racial-bias awareness training. 

Experts‚ however‚ warned in an article published on Saturday by The Guardian  that it would take more than a once-off training session to change attitudes.

Holly Hutchins‚ associate professor of human resource development at the University of Houston’s College of Technology‚ said: “Organisations tend to rush to the training option as a way to quickly window-dress issues‚ especially around gender or racial bias.”

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