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Starbucks closes U.S. stores for racial-bias training

BROOKLYN — The doors were locked, the espresso machines were shut off, and the only thing brewing at a Starbucks on Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn was a conversation.

It was one of 8,000 Starbucks locations across the U.S. that closed for hours Tuesday afternoon for anti-bias training with the company’s nearly 180,000 workers.

That training, according to the company, came in the form of a curriculum drafted in part by the NAACP as well as instructional videos, one that featured the company’s chairman Howard Schultz and rapper/activist Common.

The workers were put in small groups where the conversation addressed bias and promoted diversity.

The goal of the day was to avoid the type of racial bias that led to the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month.

In that case, a manager called police on Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson as the pair sat at a table without purchasing anything. They were waiting for a friend to arrive.

The incident is now serving as a teaching moment for the company.

“This is something that should be done. I think all corporations should be doing bias training,” said Paula Edgar, a diversity training consultant who has been working with corporations for more than 10 years.

While she applauds Starbucks’ commitment to being part of the solution, according to Edgar, it’s all about what happens tomorrow, not today.

“Being that this is just a start means that we can hold them accountable to say, ‘Well what else is going on? What else are you going to do after this four-hour training?' because as a consumer, we decide whether they are successful or not,” she said.

Due to the nationwide closures, Starbucks is expected to report a $12 million profit loss.

All locations will be open again at 5 a.m. Wednesday.