More than a month since two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, the coffee chain is scheduled to hold a racial-bias training. The afternoon workshop is planned for Tuesday, May 29. USA Today reports that more than 8,000 Starbucks locations nationwide and potentially 175,000 employees will be affected.
The racial-bias training will include video messages from Starbucks’ leadership and Common. Employees will also be allowed to share their experiences with racial bias. That Common is included in the training speaks volumes about the rapper’s significance in discussions about race.
Common’s racial harmony discourse
Even though the rapper’s career is about two decades long, Common became a household name after winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015. He won for the song “Glory” which was included in the soundtrack for “Selma,” a movie about the Civil Rights Movement.
Common also had a role in the movie, as Civil Rights activist, James Bevel. His acting career is another facet that makes the rapper visible to an increasing number of people.
If any rapper, or entertainer, for that matter, is poised to shed light on racial bias, then Common is the one. “Glory” is thoughtful and passionate, and it is likely that Common will use his real-life experience, plus his knowledge of the history of racism in the US to teach Starbucks’ representatives at all levels about how racism permeates American society.
Beyond Common: lessons from the Starbucks’ incident
While Common’s presence in the videotaped presentations will be a pleasant addition to the usual workplace training, but questions remain about the overall efficacy of the racial-bias training.
Previews of the training were released to the press this week. Also, it was revealed that the training is not mandatory. That weakens the reconciliatory effect of the workshops. The public might rightfully wonder what will it take to make the training mandatory?
Even after the incident wherein two black men were arrested because a Starbucks’ employee called the police on them, another racially charged happened. The men weren’t charged, and numerous news outlets reported that they were only waiting for a friend.
The latter incident, which occurred this month, found a racial slur for Mexicans printed on a customer’s cup. While the details for this incident are less clear than the one involving the two men, it nevertheless found Starbucks’ higher-ups apologizing to the aforementioned customer and according to the Los Angeles Times, the man accepted.
The incidents are disturbing because they have happened. Theories abound in academia and social media about why such things have occurred, but no one has any solution
Maybe Starbucks will actually find solutions that work for the coffee chain. One can hope that the rest of the country will be able to implement solutions that create harmony outside of coffee shops.