After a barista in Philadelphia called police on two black men waiting for a friend, Starbucks temporarily closed 8,000 stores to train its U.S. employees about how not to be horribly biased toward customers. The Seattle-based company said it would continue to introduce anti-bias initiatives and publicly released its May 29 training materials online for others to use.
Now the same training could be coming to police and other county employees in Miami-Dade. This past Monday, the government operations committee voted unanimously in favor of Commissioner Barbara Jordan's idea to bring the program to the county's 25,000 employees.
"In terms of training, it's about making sure we are keeping up with modern technology and ideas and how we do things," Jordan tells New Times. "Anything we can do to be preventative in nature, I think we should do."
Jordan's proposal will next go to the full board of county commissioners for a vote. If it passes, Miami-Dade County would be the first local government to formally adopt Starbucks' anti-bias program.
Starbucks' four-hour training included a video from filmmaker Stanley Nelson about the challenges people of color face when navigating public spaces. Employees were also asked to answer questions about times they had been the subject of racial bias and to recall moments when they had unfairly judged someone based on appearance.
“The work that we want to do is not say you’re a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes,” Alexis McGill Johnson, the cofounder of the think tank that developed the training, told the Associated Press.
Some critics, however, say training isn't enough to combat most people's long-ingrained biases.
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"Training virtually never has any effect on people's bias," Frank Dobbin, a Harvard University sociology professor, told NPR. "And it's partly because bias is based on a lifetime of experiences with the media and with real life."
Currently, Miami-Dade offers a workshop on "valuing cultural diversity," although it does not appear to be mandatory for all employees. The county's police department completed separate anti-bias training in 2016 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jordan says, ideally, all county employees, not just new hires, would undergo the training. And she says even seasoned employees should periodically take refresher courses as they do for other topics.
"We have to get updates all the time on our ethics training," she says. "I think anti-bias training is relevant for all county departments and all employees."