The One Missing Element From Starbucks’ Racial Bias Training That We All Need Most

May 31, 2018

Racial Bias Training

This past Tuesday Starbucks shut down over 8,000 stores and put 175,000 employees through “Racial Bias Training” for 4 hours.

This unprecedented move was in response to two black businessmen who got arrested in Philadelphia for “trespassing” after one of them used a Starbucks bathroom without yet having placed an order.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the 4-hour training—which cost “tens of millions” of dollars—was designed with the help of 30 experts in neuroscience, social behavior and civil rights.

Shoot, a collaboration with 30 experts made me eager to read what they came up with!

So after Starbucks released their training to the public yesterday, I read through both guidebooks and watched the videos.

Granted I didn’t go through the training as an employee, nor did I spend 4 hours reading and watching the content. However, based on what I did see, I agree with the CEO’s self-assessment that “it was a start, but it wasn’t perfect.”

While a lot of the content was solid, one section that stood out to me was on page 8 of The Personal Notebook where employees are challenged to be “color brave”.

Color brave?

To me this phrase seems to suggest there is something to fear in those who are different from me.

Do I need to be brave when having a conversation with an African American man? Do I need to be brave when I encounter an Asian woman? Do I need to be brave when I speak with an Hispanic person?

Rather than trying to remind myself to be brave, what if instead I reminded myself to simply love?

Isn’t that what Jesus said mattered most?

Jesus never challenged us to be “color brave”; He challenged us to “love God and love others.”

I’m pretty sure when Jesus referred to “others”, He meant people of all ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds.

He clarified this later during His Great Commission when Jesus told us to “go and make disciples of ALL nations.”

I suppose some people do feel fear when they encounter those who are different, so perhaps some people do need to step out of their shell and be more brave.

But I feel like we’re called to a much higher standard than simply being brave.

I don’t think we should be asking, “How can I be brave?”

I think we should be asking, “How can I be love?”

More specifically, “How can I be love to everyone around me?”

This includes those who are like you as well as those who aren’t.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can love those around you:

  • Be genuinely curious about others.
  • Ask questions.
  • Listen to others. Truly listen.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Be present.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Engage in meaningful conversation.
  • Go past surface level.
  • Learn their story.
  • Don’t “one up” their story with yours.
  • Ask how they’re doing. Ask how they’re really doing.
  • Actually care about their response.
  • Ask questions in response to their response.
  • Smile.
  • Look for ways to serve.
  • Look for ways to go above and beyond.
  • Put their needs above your own.
  • Be patient.
  • Put their comfort above your own.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Discover their passions.
  • Find things you have in common.
  • Express gratitude for your time with them.
  • Be kind.


Look Starbucks, I applaud your efforts in bringing people together. I love how your training included lots of dialogue. I love how each store was able to come up with their own game plan full of ideas for how to better serve their specific community. I love how you started the conversation.

Look at that… I just read through your training a few minutes ago, and yet there are still things I found that I love.

If each of us makes a little effort, I think we can all find things we love in someone else, no matter their skin color, accent, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else we discover that makes them different from us.

But let’s not be afraid to use the word love.

We can love those who are different from us. We can love those who come from different cultures. We can love those whom we hardly know.

Let’s not focus on being color brave. Let’s focus on being love brave.

Join the Conversation 

What ways do you think we can love those who are different from us? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.







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