Starbucks opens the door for important discussions regarding race and discrimination

Starbucks opens the door for important discussions regarding race and discrimination
Starbucks closed more than 8,000 locations May 29th for racial sensitivity training (Source: WLOX)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - At 2:30 p.m. the popular cafe shut down to train its employees how to handle the sensitive topic of racial bias.

Not everyone was happy that they couldn't get their afternoon caffeine fix on Tuesday, but others are hoping that the racial bias training at Starbucks is a step in the right direction.

"It's my prayer that all of us can sacrifice five hours, or a cup of coffee, or a latte, or even a strawberry refresher, like I like, in order that we may build this country to be better," said Jakavious Pickett, a Starbucks customer.

There are businesses that already have diversity and inclusion policies implemented.

Mississippi Power is one of those companies. "It's not just about what we do to serve our customers and to serve our employees, but it's how we go about doing it," said Debbie Benefield.

Wesley Cheek, a sociology professor at Tulane, says that businesses play a big part in how humans interact and go about their lives. "America is you know, a free market economy, so our businesses have a lot of power in our society," Cheek said.

By taking the time to close for a few hours, Starbucks is using its power to help break down structural issues having to do with race in America.

"Businesses in America are a huge part of our social structure so if they can also confront the issue, of course it helps," Cheek added.

In an open letter, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote that discussing race and discrimination is not an easy thing to do, but it's a discussion that must be had. He also said today's curriculum will be made available to the public.

The company also changed its policy this month after two black men were arrested after waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia. The company now allows anyone to sit in the restaurant, regardless if they pay or not.

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