Starbucks customers in Saginaw OK with store closing early for anti-bias training

Published: May. 29, 2018 at 11:46 PM EDT
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(05/29/2018) - Customers continued to hit the drive-thru at Starbucks in Saginaw hours after the store shut its doors to conduct anti-bias training.

Once they realized why the store was closed, they were not upset.

"I feel like its a constant thing in our nation right now and I think it needs to be done, honestly, " said Michael Gregory.

"They're doing something to show that they care about racial equality," said Katharine Terhune.

"It's important," said Aerial Fields,"there's a lot of racial sensitivity right now and a lot of racial unrest, it's not going to get fixed by not talking about it."

In an open letter to Starbucks customers --Executive Chairman Howard Schultz said the reason they're closing stores is to discuss how to make Starbucks a place where everyone feels welcome:

"Discussing racism and discrimination is not easy, " he letter stated in part, "we want this to be an open and honest conversation starting with our partners."

Starbucks' plan to close stores for anti-bias training comes after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store while waiting for a business associate, a situation the company has said should not have happened.

SVSU Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rosina Hassoun, has conducted diversity training for more than a decade.

She says the anti-bias training should have been a part of their new employee training:

'Hopefully the training is designed so that you recognize that you have these unconscious biases," she said, "and that when that idea comes to your brain, you have a mechanism that says 'no, I'm not going to act on that, that's not right'."

While she said shutting stores nationwide, instead of localizing the issue is unusual, and makes her hopeful, she cautions this cannot be a one-off:

"It is regular review," she said,"it has to be integrated into the corporate structure and into their culture. If Starbucks cannot do that than this is a waste."

Schultz said that after investigating what happened in Philadelphia, they determined that insufficient support and training, a company policy that defined customers as paying patrons, versus anyone who enters a store, and bias let to the decision to call the police.

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