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Starbucks holds racial-bias training for employees

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Billy Bob Galintino, Dave D’Base and Keahi Kuahiwi sit outside the Lihue Starbucks on Tuesday to socialize and use the cafe’s internet service.

LIHUE — Koloa’s Cecilia Lorenz was surprised to find the Starbucks at Kukui Grove Center closed Tuesday afternoon.

When she found out why, she said it was a good move.

“I didn’t know about it, but I think it’s really cool they’re taking a stand to show that type of behavior isn’t OK,” Lorenz said.

“I think it’s honorable, and I think a lot of companies can learn a thing or two from that,” she said. “People could see that if we all come together and had some more ideas and supported each other like that then it could make the world a better place.”

Starbucks Corporation closed more than 8,000 locations across the country on Tuesday afternoon for “racial-bias education” for the staff, which could cost the Seattle-based coffee chain an estimated $12 million in revenue.

Starbucks, mocked three years ago for suggesting employees discuss racial issues with customers, asked workers Tuesday to talk about race with each other.

It was part of the coffee chain’s anti-bias training, created after the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks six weeks ago. The chain apologized but also took the dramatic step of closing its stores early for the sessions. But still to be seen is whether the training, developed with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and other groups, will prevent another embarrassing incident.

“This is not science, this is human behavior,” said Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz. He called it the first step of many.

The training was personal, asking workers to break into small groups to talk about their experiences with race. According to training materials provided by the company, they were also asked to pair up with a co-worker and list the ways they “are different from each other.” A guidebook reminds people to “listen respectfully” and tells them to stop any conversations that get derailed.

A sign on front of the closed door to the Lihue Starbucks said: “Today our store is reconnecting with our mission and with each other. We are sharing ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming.”

Iris Cassidy of Koloa stopped by the Lihue store to pick up lunch for her co-workers, but she didn’t know when the coffeehouse closure was to going to take place.

“If they’re working together to actually do that, it makes a big difference,” Cassidy said. “It helps people open their eyes a little bit more to what’s really going on.”

“Sometimes what goes on in life is more important than money, and this is a good way of showing it,” she added.

Keahi Kuahiwi of Kapaa was sitting at a table with friends outside the closed store Tuesday and thought maybe the location was closed for remodeling.

“I think it’s a solid business move,” Kuahiwi said. “To state that you’re not racist is a good statement to make too, especially if they mean it.”

He meets at Starbucks frequently with friends and was glad the store left their Wi-Fi connection available.

“I don’t mind that they’re closed and think it’s a good reason actually,” he added.

4 Comments
  1. Dude May 30, 2018 8:48 am Reply

    I didn’t realize Starbucks was so racist! They seem to accept everyone when I’ve been there.


  2. Bluedream May 30, 2018 12:25 pm Reply

    Politically correct Nazis bullying corporations to the point of “training” classes that resemble a Monty Python sketch. How utterly silly and stupid our society has become.


  3. Victoria May 30, 2018 8:56 pm Reply

    I’m not a racial person but I didn’t understand why they closed Starbucks, so I googled why and what happened in Philadelphia Starbucks. Two black men was sitting in Starbucks claiming waiting for an acquaintance. Didn’t buy coffee. These days people are so scared with shooting, robberies, Kauai FHB son murdered Mother, homeless all over. It’s the management job to protect their customers and employees. I don’t like this black, white discrimination. It’s the color of that men it was the situation. My opinion


  4. Honey Girl May 30, 2018 9:39 pm Reply

    This finally acknowledges how valuable the spending dollar is of a person of color patron to Starbucks and other corporations. They would have lost a lot more than the 12 million in sales if POC were to boycott Starbucks. Our country is very dependent upon the spending power of African Americans and other non-white folks so now, they can see how they have that political power to flex even more. Flex on….Power to the People!


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