Question effectiveness of racial bias training
On April 12, two Black men — Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson — were arrested in a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia, according to . Officials claimed that the two men had asked to use the bathroom without making a purchase and were eventually asked to leave. However, when they did not leave, an employee called the police. The article also states that the men were arrested on the suspicion of trespassing, but Starbucks did not plan on pressing charges. Andrew Yaffe, the man who was supposed to meet Nelson and Robinson, questioned the basis of their arrest, stating “[Was it] because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?” The video of the arrest went viral and caused public outrage: As of press time, it has been viewed over 8 million times on Twitter. As a result, the company will begin holding racial bias training. On May 29, Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores and provide training to its 175,000 employees, according to . This is particularly relevant, as University President Ron Liebowitz announced that he and senior administrative colleagues will begin undergoing “training on issues related to racism, sexism, inclusion and inequality,” per his April 12 email to the University. However, this brings about the real question: Is racial bias training actually feasible?
While it would be ideal for individuals to attend a session and learn the errors of their ways, studies have shown disappointing results. published in the Journal of Applied Psychology actually revealed that individuals who were more aware of their stereotyping expressed those ideas even further. And even if the training was to make any sort of noticeable difference, it is not something that could occur over the course of a day, as people still harbor implicit racial biases which are difficult to shake. According to , implicit biases are, “among other things, automatic, intuitive, and (mostly) unconscious.” Implicit cognition is a skill developed from a young age and the biases that develop from it are the result of years of experience and outside influence. The article also states that “implicit biases tend to intrude unconsciously in online cognition in ways that can sometimes supersede the influence of years of education.” This is the the greatest problem with offering bias training.
In , Bryant Marks, a psychology professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, said that the training implemented by Starbucks should be the first step of many. He stated, “It would have to involve ongoing conversations among the corporate leadership in particular.” It takes time to mentally overcome years of bias and even more time to train oneself to act in a way that reflects these changes. Marks also suggested employee training at the hiring stage — something that would prove useful if offered along with the sexual harassment training that is offered at many workplaces. While these are still not completely effective in thwarting the inappropriate actions which occur in the workplace, they are still beneficial and set some sort of standard for what is expected of employees.
This training, too, is something that should be implemented in schools. As previously mentioned, Liebowitz plans on initiating racial bias training for himself and other administrative colleagues. This is something that other schools already have in place, such as Northwestern University. The for their Office of the Provost has a link to resources on unconscious bias accessible to the public. These resources include an implicit association test, a virtual workshop on managing bias, and a training video for faculty members to uncover and address, as well as a guide to mitigating bias in job recruitment. While this is not a formal course or even material specific to the institution, having these resources accessible is something that Brandeis should strive to duplicate.
Too often, people of color are viewed in a negative manner because of implicit biases and individuals’ inability to differentiate their preconceived notions from the reality of a situation. This is a problem that exists at all levels — from , to two men waiting for a business associate in a Starbucks; there is no doubt about it. That being said, it is clear that this problem is pervasive across the nation and is not limited to Starbucks or even Brandeis. Training is a step in the right direction, but it cannot end the underlying issue of racism within this nation.