In just a few weeks, Starbucks will close stores in the U.S. so workers may attend "implicit bias" workshops. But one organization is concerned that racial bias training programs actually violate civil rights.
Starbucks' decision to temporarily close stores on May 29 comes after the arrests of two black men in Philadelphia. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson say they were at the Starbucks for a business meeting that had not yet begun. Neither of them had purchased anything and were told by a store employee to leave. Police were later called to the store.
"The problem that we're having at Project 21 is that there is already … a grouping of laws that protect Americans from discrimination based on their ethnic background, their race, their religion," explains Stacy Washington of the Project 21 National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives. "Implicit bias training takes all of that good law, it kind of sets it to the side, and it teaches employers to train their employees to treat each other differently based on race, which is the antitheses of what the laws that are currently on the books are supposed to accomplish."
When it comes to Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, Washington says Starbucks could have cited company policy that customers need to purchase something to stay in the store, use the restroom, etc.
"But that's not what happened here," Washington continues. "So now you have the head of Starbucks forcing all of the employees, and he's going to lose money that day shutting down for an afternoon to do this training, and employees are going to be taught to treat people a certain way based on their characteristics, which is against employment law."