Implicit Bias Training? – Here’s What To Do Instead
The Starbucks Philadelphia Incident
After police arrested two black men in Philadelphia for sitting down in Starbucks and asking to use the washroom, the company had a massive scandal on their hands. And they had to act quickly to salvage their reputation. Part of their reaction was to implement “implicit bias training.”
As the reports go, two black guys were sitting in Starbucks without buying anything because they were waiting for a friend. One of them walked up to the counter and asked to use the bathroom. And the employee said it was for “customers only.”
The person at the counter was pissed that they had the gall to ask to use the bathroom even though they didn’t buy anything. And the Starbucks employee told them they had to either buy something or leave.
However, they wouldn’t leave and the employee called the cops.
What happened next was a huge quagmire of assumptions of racism and prejudice. When really it had more to do with the fact that the employee had had enough of their sense of entitlement.
Running A Business Is Actually Hard
It’s a difficult thing for a lot of people to understand, but running a business is actually extremely challenging. In addition to dealing with rude customers all day who make capricious demands, the overhead costs of running a franchise such as Starbucks are overwhelming.
You have to pay the corporation a fee for the right to use the trademark name; they cut off a significant percentage of your profit every month for HQ, and we haven’t even talked about problems with employees, rent, or insurance.
Whenever you sit in another person’s business, without spending at least $3 on a coffee, just remember that the person who owns that place is paying literally thousands of dollars so you have the right to sit there.
It doesn’t surprise many business owners at all that this sort of thing happened. Because the average sense of entitlement of a customer is tremendous.
And when the two men in Philadelphia refused to buy something, the employee had enough, so they called the police. Was calling the cops a good thing to do? Not really, because the police often make situations much worse, proved by this dilemma, especially.
Implicit Bias Training
As a result of the perceived “white racism,” Starbucks had to salvage their reputation. And their method is to attack racist beliefs through implicit bias training which happened yesterday.
Yesterday, Starbucks closed 8,000 of their stores in the morning to begin racial bias training. The purpose of the course is to help Starbucks employees understand racism and how it relates to their job.
A Starbucks executive, Rossann Williams, said “educating ourselves on the understanding of bias” would play a role in making sure their stores are “welcoming and safe for everyone.”
Even though it’s a noble goal, historically, how we have made changes in society have not been through attempts to change the way a person’s subconscious influences their understanding of the world.
Implicit Bias Training Likely Won’t Work
Implicit bias training put into place by Starbucks and other organizations attack racism where they believe it exists at its core, in the mind of the average human being.
Starbucks’ line of reasoning is that if that employee had a better understanding of their own “implicit racism” then they wouldn’t’ve called the cops.
However, as it was mentioned above, the incident likely had more to do with the employee’s frustration with the mens’ sense of entitlement, rather than racism.
Patterns Of Behavior Matter More Than Inherent Attitudes
Moreover, historically speaking, how Western civilization has dealt with instances of discrimination has been different than “implicit bias training.”
Psychologists, for a long time, have known prejudice is actually not that big of a predictor for discrimination.
Behavior is driven by how people habitually react to situations, because of patterns of prior behavior, rather than their innate beliefs and attitudes.
So, a much better way of handling such situations is to change the actual circumstances, in the moment of the conflict, rather than through psychological “education.”
In the past, when society tried to stop black people from using public accommodation, including water fountains and the like, we didn’t try and teach people about how to change their racist beliefs.
Change The Law And Not Human Beings
What did we do instead? We changed the laws. We created the Civil Rights Act and influenced the decision of the Brown Versus Board Of Education Supreme Court case.
The laws and Supreme Court decisions attempted to limit people’s behavior directly, through identifying what actions are not acceptable, rather than influence how they think.
The message was, “this kind of thing is no longer acceptable.” Rather than, “You need to change how you look at the world.”
And once again, this sort of thing should probably happen again.
Everyone knows that racism is a problem.
Even though the media has exaggerated, oversensationalized, and misrepresented issues such as the Starbucks incident.
The police often make situations much messier than they need to be, for a simple reason. The academy trains police to handle things with force. So, that’s how they deal with personal disputes.
And whenever they show up, people are scared of them. Especially minorities, who think that the police might draw their guns or batons on them for simply stating an opinion or objecting to the things that police have to say.
Mediators And Social Workers For Personal Disputes Rather Than Armed Forces
Rather than attempting to influence people with diversity and inclusion brochures, a better option is if people had the choice to call a subsidiary of the police that is meant specifically for de-escalating conflicts.
In other words, Starbucks could fund non-police options for people who are worried about suspicious behavior.
According to the New York Times, a Starbucks in Oakland, California, listed the phone numbers of social workers in the area who understand how to manage potentially hostile situations or conflicts. And apparently, it worked.
Rather than having police show up to the door to deal with petty conflict, a mediator should deal with the incident instead.
Police Need More Options Other Than Guns, Batons, Tasers, And Firetrucks
Tensions are already high, and when gun-wielding people come in, the tension and stress levels in the situation increase even more.
This is why there needs to be an alternative, a different force of people to call who can come in and moderate the situation like a mediator.
Police officers and former commissioners have been saying this exact thing for a long time. Authorities, for a long time, have asked that we, as a society, can’t continue asking the police to handle family squabbles, domestic disputes, mental health problems, and drug abuse.
It’s just too much, and it’s largely a waste of their time. There has to be some alternative and hopefully unarmed group that can deal with the incident.