On Tuesday, Starbucks will close some 8,000 of its stores for three hours to give employees in-house training on racism – and in particular, on “unconscious bias,” implicit bias supposedly lurking in the unknown recesses of the mind. Now, never mind that implicit bias assessment is deeply flawed scientifically; never mind that no significant link has been shown between such supposed unconscious bias and real-world racist action. All of this is designed to make Starbucks look better after accusations that a Leftist manager at a Philadelphia outlet asked two black men to buy something if they wanted to use the bathroom, then asked them to buy something if they wanted to stay in the restaurant, then called the police when they wouldn’t.
Major corporations all over the country, including Walmart and Target, have undertaken useless training to relieve such unconscious bias. As Yahoo reports:
Anti-bias sessions can incorporate personal reflections, explorations of feelings and mental exercises. But one expert says training of this kind can have the opposite effect if people feel judged… According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common. From there, employees will “move into a real and honest exploration of bias” where, in small groups, they can share how the issue comes up in their daily work life.
Data show no evidence that any of this works. As Andrew Ferguson writes at Weekly Standard:
Most recently, the Harvard psychologist Frank Dobbin head-counted his way through more than 800 midsize and large U.S. companies that had made diversity training mandatory, as Starbucks is doing. Over a five-year period he found no increase in the percentage of managers who were women or minorities. In fact, the number of black female managers declined more than 9 percent, that of Asian men 4.5 percent.
But such data haven’t stopped corporations from paying indulgences in this religious shaming ritual. The goal here is obvious: to prevent further litigious nonsense. By showing courts that they care about bias, corporations can claim that employee failures to follow corporate policy are outside the scope of agency, and that they are therefore not responsible for those actions.
So, while you’re not enjoying your coffee today, remember that inside those stores, important work is being done: by corporate lawyers, to avoid litigation. Not one black person in America today is better off because of Starbucks’ PR routine. But there are a hell of a lot of Americans who might resent the idea that we can always impute racism to your unconscious rather than to actual racist actions.