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Starbucks will close stores for racial-bias training. Is it enough?

FILE: Starbucks location
Flickr Photo/Yukiko Matsuoka (CC BY 2.0)/
FILE: Starbucks location

Starbucks will close 8,000 stores late next month so employees can attend an afternoon-long training about racial bias. That follows an incident in Philadelphia where employees called police on two African American men who were waiting for a friend but hadn’t purchased anything.

So, will one afternoon of training work? We asked an expert.

Mariko Lockhart runs the Office for Civil Rights for the City of Seattle. She said mandatory race and social justice training for city employees is hours long.  

“And we don’t consider it enough, and we don’t consider the journey ended there,” she said.

Lockhart said training 147,000 people at once, as Starbucks plans to do, introduces challenges. To reach that many employees, the training might take the format of a webinar or a video.

“It’s a good start,” she said. “But any information that’s provided in a training will be received differently, based on who we are and what our life experience is.”

She said that to really absorb the training, people will need to talk through some stuff in person. And that would require highly-trained facilitators at each Starbucks location to lead that kind of conversation.