Local expert says Starbucks 'off to good start,' but has long way to go to improve racial bias

Posted at 5:39 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 17:39:54-04

Many Starbucks shops in our area and around the country closed this afternoon for a few hours.

The employees were given sensitivity training after two African-American men were arrested while waiting for a friend inside a shop in Philadelphia.

Sensitivity training is meant to be an opportunity for employees and the company to grow, but some experts say it will take more than just an afternoon of training.

“Just not enough,” Steve Spreitzer said.

He is the president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion.

Spreitzer calls it a human relations organization that goes to companies offering sensitivity training, similar to what Starbucks is doing.

“We work to make sure places where people live and work are places everyone is welcome and treated fairly,” he said.

Last month, two African-American men were arrested while waiting for a friend at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

“Why them? Why were the police needed?”

In order for this training to be successful, Steve says companies need to follow five steps:

1) Managers have to be leaders with their behavior. 

2) A plan has to be in place to make changes. 

3) A plan to sustain the changes. 

4) There should be an incentive for good behavior, to encourage employees.

5) Hire and retain diverse talent.

“The challenge is dealing with customers that aren’t from your background. We have this unconscious bias, implicit bias a lot of us don’t even know we are doing,” Spreitzer explained. “(We need to) see each customer fresh and new.”

Spreitzer said Starbucks is off to a good start.

“Breaking that cycle (and) learning new behaviors takes time, so I would say stay on it,” he added.