Starbucks employees forced to stand down from their barista duties for a day of sensitivity training are claiming that the curriculum was mostly anti-police propaganda.
Franchises across the USA closed last week to conduct the training, which came after two African-American men were reportedly detained after loitering in and refusing to leave a Starbucks in Philadelphia.
However, most who attended the course said it was little more than anti-police propaganda given by poorly-qualified “instructors” who beat around the bush on racial issues.
“I was really disappointed when I walked out of there because I was expecting so much more,” said one 18-year-old black barista, who went by the pseudonym “Tina” in an effort to protect her identity.
Handed a 68-page manual for the course, Tina said the material focused more on police brutality, rather than the incident that created so much controversy and created a corporate “need” for the training in the first place.
“It felt like we were off task the entire time because we didn’t reflect on the situation itself,” Tina remarked. “The training materials focused a lot on police brutality, which had nothing to do with the incident that happened.”
Another attendee said the training session only touched on such issues when employees asked about them.
Furthermore, the training had heavy emphasis on the usage of videos depicting police brutality against blacks.
“The videos of cops knocking people down and fighting people were really disturbing,” Tina explained. “I told them I didn’t like the video and they told me they understood and that I was open to give my opinion.” What does watching videos about police brutality have to do with the situation that happened, Tina said she kept asking herself. “They went too deep into it and missed the point all at the same time.”
At on point, a Starbucks representative named Jamie said a girl actually left during the event due to the gratuitousness of the violence depicted in the videos.
“Video after video,” he told Philadelphia magazine, “They showed black people being assaulted by police or black people being verbally assaulted and white people being racially biased toward people of color. It offended her. She left after that.”
Jamie reported that the training focused too much on how “black and Latino people feel about being black and Latino.”
“If your racial training is supposed to be inclusive, why aren’t you also talking about what white people face, since they’re part of the problem too.” Jamie said. “As a Puerto Rican, it felt I was being made the center of attention for what seemed to be a PR stunt.”
During the training, a new Starbucks phrase was introduced- “color brave.”
According to the material, “color brave” involves addressing -and overriding- one’s personal biases, something Tina said made no sense.
“How do you know how I feel in my skin?” she asked. “How are you telling me how I should feel in my skin? That was just one of the terms going around that I didn’t like. Maybe it could be ‘color awareness,’ but not ‘color brave.’”
All in all, the seminars did not seem to go over well with employees.
“You’re a multi-billion dollar company, and you don’t have anything,” Jamie remarked. “It felt inconsiderate to bring about this event with no real way to attack the problems.”
At the end of the day, Starbucks employees will still be facing the same challenges as before.
“It’s weird they focused so heavily on how we feel about our racial identity,” Jamie added. “How is that going to help me deal with a homeless person using drugs in my bathroom?”