Hold Your Judgment!
It’s only been a few days since Starbucks(SBUX) held their company-wide training on racial bias, but many seem ready to write it off and dismiss any positive effects as transitory! Some of these individuals are HR professionals – but none seems to have actually participated in the training!
As a person of color and an HR practitioner, I am hopeful. I have a daughter and a nephew who work at Starbucks, and they have had nothing but positive things to say about their employer—even before the unfortunate event that prompted this training. I am optimistic about continuing this conversation, and thankful to Starbucks for taking action. They never claimed that this training was the ultimate solution. On the contrary, the company has made it clear that this is part of an ongoing initiative. They know that lasting improvement will require a sustained effort, and that it may be necessary to tweak the training over time. And I appreciate their express willingness to share the materials they develop with other organizations.
Given the company’s positive reputation within the global community, it didn’t have to proceed on this scale, but it did! Those who consider this a PR stunt may need to check on their own bias. It was more than a PR. It was an investment! If other organizations invested in their employees so generously, we wouldn’t have so many compliance issues in the first place. I was appalled when people moaned about missing their coffee runs. Is that more important than a grand gesture focused on building a better community and tackling racial bias? Let’s think about the fact that on the day of the training, people were showing disgust for Roseanne Barr’s racist tirade. This led to innocent coworkers losing their livelihood–on stage and behind the curtains—but some still defended her. Isn’t this a climate in which fighting bigotry takes precedence over our daily cappuccinos? If you still aren’t convinced, think about the actions of our president, who spews hatred on People of Colors (African American, Hispanics, Middle Eastern, etc.). When it comes to combatting racial bias, there’s no time like the present.
Rather than writing off Starbucks’ effort, why not help promote it? They planted the seeds, let’s nurture them so that they will take root, grow, blossom, and bear fruit. What would have happened if we listened to naysayers when the “Do Not Litter” and “No Smoking” campaigns were launched? It’s easy to forget that these attempts to change American society produced their share of scoffing and cynicism. It took time, but society did change and changed in recent memory. Sure, there are those who still litter and smoke, but at a vastly lesser scale than in decades past. Remember the business owners who thought that smoking ban would be bad for business? The opposite turned out to be true.
We all know that we are not born racist. Racism is learned, much like smoking. As someone who grew up with smokers, many of my family and friends (myself included) do not smoke, and our children aren’t hesitant to announce to someone that smoking can kill them! We are also of mixed race and multi-religion, making it important to be respectful of our differences, and those of others. Education is a big step. We all learn at different pace. So, before we judge Starbuck’s effort and write it off, let’s give it some time. Perhaps, if we just hold off on being judgmental, and instead practice open mindedness and patience, our world will be a better place… who doesn’t want that?