News and Commentary

EXCLUSIVE: A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Starbucks’ ‘Woke’ Racial Bias Training

On Tuesday, Starbucks held its much-publicized racial sensitivity training to help expose and eliminate the “unconscious bias” of its employees. The four-hour training session, for which the company shut down around 8,000 stores to conduct, was planned in response to the infamous incident in a Philadelphia cafe, where two African-American entrepreneurs were arrested for loitering in mid-April.

The Daily Wire spoke with one of the Starbucks employees who attended the training session Tuesday at which the company’s baristas and managers heard from the rapper Common, learned that they should not be “color blind” but should be “color brave,” and that their unconscious brain processes naturally promoted racism.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the training session, which was developed by a team of more than 30 experts — among them “diversity inclusion” experts, community activist group leaders and neuroscientists — started with the employees being segregated into groups. They remained in those groups through most of the training, which consisted of a series of videos on iPads followed by discussion periods within the group on various racial sensitivity issues.

One of the first videos criticized the concept of being “color-blind,” insisting that no one is able to ignore race. The proper concept to strive for, the video explained, is to be “color-brave,” a term the employee said was never specifically defined. The video made sure to underscore that racism and racial biases are deeply rooted in American history.

Common, who guest-starred in a few videos, discussed what made individuals “unique and good,” the employee told the Wire. “This led into the first activity, where we talked about what our differences were with our groups.”

In another video, a Starbucks higher-up gave an anecdote about him taking a trip to Italy in 1983 in which he visited several coffee shops. The experience, he said, inspired him to create an inclusive environment, where everyone feels like they belong — the goal of Starbucks. “He also curiously suggested that he felt that that environment of belonging and equality is somehow more difficult to achieve today than it was in 1983,” noted the employee.

The participants were provided workbooks in which they were encouraged to jot down notes and work through some discussion questions. The employee, who took pictures of some of the more significant pages, provided the Wire a list of some of the reflection questions participants were required to work through, including a number of personal “firsts” when it came to racial experiences:

1.) The first time we noticed our racial identity.

2.) The first time we noticed how our race affected our beauty standards.

3.) The first time we felt our accent impacted people’s perception of our intelligence our competence.

4.) The first time we altered our communication style (dialed it up or down) to avoid playing into stereotypes.

5.) The first time we had a friend of a different race who regularly visited our home.

6.) The first time we felt distracted at work because of external events related to race.

7.) The first time we had a senior role model in our organization with a similar racial identity to our own.

8.) The first time we went to work with our natural hair without comments or questions from others.

9.) The first time we felt our race affected our ability to build a rapport with our manager.

After the “firsts” exercise, the employee says they then watched a video with various experts discussing “implicit versus explicit bias.” Though the experts “openly acknowledged the fact that with implicit bias you aren’t even aware that it is occurring,” the experts said we are all still responsible for trying to recognize our unconscious thought processes. As part of this section, participants were required to take the Stroop test “in order to teach us about how our unconscious brain works.”

Another film, which was produced by an NAACP filmmaker, consisted of testimonials from African Americans about the debilitating fear of being judged and treated differently. “I found the video to be quite sad, not because of the intended reasons though, more so because it displayed people who were being crippled by the false narrative of widespread systemic racism,” the employee said. “One incredibly irritating part of the video was that there was a singular token white guy who gave a testimonial in which he basically said that because he’s white, his life is perfect and he doesn’t have any problems or obstacles and that he can’t relate to or empathize with any of the black peoples’ struggles. That part was somewhat insulting.”

Another video explained Starbucks new policy allowing people to loiter without making purchases. “The interesting thing was that they specifically mentioned the fact that we are still permitted to ask people to leave the shop if they are disrupting the welcoming atmosphere, but they left that threshold relatively undefined and up to interpretation,” said the employee.

The final session of the training involved listening to audio clips from various employees who made judgments or assumptions about people that ended up being false. The employee summarized some of those testimonials:

One lady came in with dirty, stained sweatpants that had holes in them and she started checking out the reusable cups, so it was assumed she might try to steal them. Turns out she wanted to buy them. A group of black kids came in so one of the employees, suspecting they might try to steal from the tip jar because that had already happened several times, took the jar and concealed it behind the counter. The kids ended up asking where the jar was in order to give a tip. There was a scruffy, dirty looking man who was talking to a woman in the lobby and it looked like he was harassing the lady and was trying to get her to give him something, so an employee came over and accused him of pan-handling. Turns out they were a married couple.

Some of the examples were bizarre though because they didn’t really consist of the employee doing anything wrong. Like the person who said they refused to give a lady a refill on her cup of coffee because she came in with a really old, dirty-looking cup that appeared to already have been used a number of times before. This is consistent with the store’s policy. Or the person who said they refused to let a black man return a bag of coffee beans because he didn’t have a receipt. They did say that it was something they had allowed other people to do before but for some reason would not let this black man do, but either way that refusing that is also consistent with the store’s policy. Then there was the example where a transgender person (woman who thinks she’s a man) requested the key to the men’s restroom but was given the key to the women’s restroom, because she is a biological woman.

“The training ended with us writing down some final thoughts and discussing what all we learned (spoiler: nothing),” the employee said. “I think they managed to nail every entry in the racial identity politics lexicon, including during one of the videos when one of the speakers unironically asked a group of Starbucks employees if they felt Starbucks was ‘woke’ or ‘still waking up.'”

Below are photos of some of the materials the employee shared with The Daily Wire:

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