State Rep. Harris encouraged by Starbucks video

May 29, 2018 GMT

When state Rep. Jordan Harris viewed the eight-minute video that will be a part of the bias training for the more than 175,000 Starbucks employees Tuesday, he admitted to doing a double take.

“There is a part in the video where they have a historical clip of a white woman saying, “We don’t serve n-----s in here,’” Harris said. “So for me, I was kind of shocked that Starbucks was getting raw and cutting to the heart of the history of racism and segregation that we have in this country.

“But it was encouraging to know that Starbucks wasn’t going to be pulling any punches,” said Harris, head of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “They are going to begin the training with this video. I’m encouraged that they are going to kick things off with it because it will set the tone for a very serious conversation. And a serious conversation needs to be had around this issue.”

Starbucks has been tight-lipped about the half-day training on racial bias it will conduct when it closes its 8,000 company-owned stores across the nation on Tuesday afternoon in response to the arrests of two African-American men last month after they requested to use the bathroom and did not make a purchase.

Since that time, Starbucks has changed its bathroom policy, making it open to all. Before that, however, a barista wrote a racial slur on the cup of a Latino customer in a store in California, which brought the Fortune 500 company more negative publicity.

Starbucks enlisted the help of a number of influential civil rights leaders, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to put together a mostly interactive curriculum on racial bias training that will be taught in stores.

Harris said one day of training is not enough. However, he said that he and other local politicians have received assurance from the company that the bias training will be an ongoing process.

“Let’s be clear: One day of training is not going to change things, nor is one video,” Harris said. “But this is going to be an ongoing process and that’s great. You have to remember that just because this happened in Starbucks it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening in other parts of the city, the commonwealth and across the country.”

Starbucks will make its training available to other companies that are interested in addressing racial bias within their organizations.

“This is crucial,” Harris said. “You want to get as many companies involved in this as you can because racism is a problem everywhere, not just with Starbucks.”