NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- Starbucks will hold what’s called “unconscious bias training” for employees at all 8,000 of its U.S. coffee shops next month.
The move comes after two African-American men were arrested for trespassing at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a friend.
The charges were later dropped. Starbucks and the police apologized for the incident.
Dr. Sandra Barnes is a Vanderbilt University sociologist who facilitates unconscious bias training. WMOT News asked her to define the bias and describe the seminars.
“We all have biases, even well-meaning people. The question would be do we understand them as well as whether and how we act upon them.”
Dr. Barnes acknowledges that bias training is controversial in some circles. She also notes that it usually does make participants uncomfortable.
“Persons can kind of be challenged around certain ways of thinking, certain attitudes that they have, as well as certain things that they’ve done, or that they’ve seen, or that they’ve experienced.”
Even though the training can be challenging, Dr. Barnes says participants must be made to feel they are in a safe space. Otherwise, she says the training may cause more problems than it solves.
“It’s very difficult to talk to persons about the ways in which we can be better and we can get better, without its kind of being taken out of context or maybe taken personally.”
Dr. Barnes stresses that whether the bias is unconscious or not, prejudice can never be excused.
Here are some bias training resources Dr. Barnes recommends: