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Starbucks Closes Early Today for Racial Bias Training

“We are closing early as our teams reconnect with our mission and each other,” Starbucks says.

Brandon Walker

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In the aftermath of the two black men arrested last month in Philadelphia, Starbucks will close over 8,000 store locations across the nation today beginning as early as this afternoon, NPR reports.

“We’re closing our stores this afternoon to come away with more learnings around bias – both explicit and implicit, structural and personal,” Starbucks responded on Twitter. “Recognizing racial bias is one small way we can help make Starbucks a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

The goal of this initiative is to deal face-to-face with internal issues to examine implicit bias within their stores. During the incident where a Rittenhouse Square Starbucks employee called the police on two men sitting in the store, they were arrested upon police arrival and detained for hours during that day.

Since then, there has been national outcry on social media, protests, and personal calls to stores as a result of the unwarranted arrests. Starbucks executives later apologized after the incident and said they are making efforts to bring about positive change in a press release last month.

“All Starbucks company-owned retail stores and corporate offices will be closed in the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29,” Starbucks stated on April 17. “During that time, partners will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome.”

According to NPR, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, the two men arrested, agreed to a settlement with Starbucks and another offer in support of a college tuition program earlier this month. In a deal with the city of Philadelphia, they reached a deal for a symbolic amount of $1 each and the support of a public high school program representing young entrepreneurs.

On May 10, Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz issued a change of its restroom policy stating that it would be open to everyone, including both paying and non-paying patrons who enter the store.

“We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key,” Schultz said. “Because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are ‘less than.’ We want you to be ‘more than.’ ”

Starbucks said the curriculum of the new training was made guided by “Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund;  Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.”

“We want to learn from our mistakes,” Starbucks said on Twitter. “And this is one step of many we are taking to make everyone feel welcome and included in our stores.”

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Brandon Walker is a junior finance major at Temple University. He is a committed writer and jazz pianist. Brandon has written for The Temple News and is interested in a career in business and communications. He can be reached at brandon.walker@temple.edu.

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