As Starbucks prepares to close 8,000 company-owned stores on Tuesday for a mbad employee training session to combat racial prejudice, the president of one of the country's oldest and largest civil rights groups said to ABC News that the crucial test will be the coffee giant concludes its training.
Marc Morial, president of the Urban League, said the company can not wait for an afternoon of instruction to eradicate the kind of implicit bias that led to the undue arrest of two African-American men at a Starbucks store in downtown Philadelphia earlier this year. year and made his CEO apologize to the men in person.
"I think Starbucks I should be applauded for what I would call one of the most ambitious efforts to face an incident of this kind that I have seen any company do in recent times, "Morial told ABC News. "However, it is important to realize that a day of training in diversity will not solve the implicit and explicit racism in a company or in the United States.The test will be what is the strategy of the company to institutionalize what type of training or development professional to deal with the broader problems. "
On April 12, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two 23-year-old black entrepreneurs and lifelong friends, expected to meet with a potential business partner at a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia when a white manager asked them if they wanted to. order anything. They refused and told him they were there for a quick meeting.
Nelson said He immediately asked to use the bathroom when they entered, but was informed that it was only for paying customers. Then the couple sat at a table and waited for the person they were scheduled to meet.
Two minutes after entering the store, the manager called 911 and police officers arrested the men for trespbading and pulled them from the store in handcuffs when they refused requests to leave.
A client posted a cell phone video on Twitter of the arrested men, prompting national outrage, protests at the Philadelphia Starbucks and calling for a boycott against the company.
Within 24 hours, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson described the incident as "reprehensible" and apologized to the men. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross also issued a public apology and all charges against the men were dropped.
"We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to create a safe and welcoming environment for each customer," said Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, in a statement.
On April 17, Starbucks announced that it would close more than 8,000 company-owned stores throughout the country during an afternoon to train 170,000 employees on how to avoid "racial bias."
Starbucks says the training will last up to four hours on Tuesday starting at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Employees will meet in their individual stores and review a curriculum created with input from experts such as Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and Heather McGhee, president of the public policy organization Demos.
The company released a preview of the video that workers will see during training last week. It features the Academy Award-winning rapper Common, who will guide them through the lesson, the company said.
During training, employees will review a workbook and be instructed to identify the implicit and explicit bias and how to control it. Employees are also expected to hold group discussions and share personal experiences of discrimination.
The company has already instituted what it calls a "Third-Party Policy" in which customers are "welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our bathrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase."
"We hope these learning and discussion sessions will make a difference in and out of our stores," Rossann Williams, executive vice president of retail sales at Starbucks, told employees in a note the company made public on May 23.
After the training session, the curriculum will be available to the public.
"May 29 is not a solution, it's a first step," Williams said. "By educating ourselves to understand the prejudices and how it affects our lives and those of the people we meet and serve, we renew our commitment to making the third place welcoming and safe for all."
Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans noted that African-Americans have suffered similar incidents at other retail chains since the incident at the Starbucks in Philadelphia.
Earlier this month, police called three black teenagers unfairly accused of stealing from a Nordstrom Rack in St. Louis, Missouri, prompting the company's president, Geevy Thomas, to meet with the three young people and their parents to apologize. In another incident this month, an African-American customer was called to the police at a Hobby Lobby store near Birmingham, Alabama, because he vaguely resembled a suspect in a check-cashing plan.
"The implicit and explicit bias is a reality in the United States of the 21st century," Morial told ABC News. "It's just a reality and to deny it is to deny the obvious because now with social networks people are often caught red-handed"