Black Activists Oppose Starbucks’ Shutdown for Racism Training, Citing Civil Rights Concerns

In this Tuesday, March 21, 2017, file photo, a woman walks past a Starbucks coffee shop in Sewickley, Pa. Starbucks Corp. reports earnings Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

The National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 warns that Starbucks’ plan to shutter thousands of its stores on May 29 to train 175,000 employees in “implicit bias” could violate workers’ civil rights.

The move comes after the April 12 arrest of two black men who were reportedly loitering at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

Project 21 is asking the federal government to “look into whether blanket assumptions by an employer in such situations constitute a violation of employees’ civil rights.”

“Not only does implicit bias training on the part of employers eat up valuable time that could be spent training employees on safety, teamwork and building morale, the targeting associated with bias training is divisive,” Project 21 co-chairman Stacy Washington said in a press release distributed to the media.

“When employees are trained to focus on their differences, the camaraderie necessary to work together is destroyed,” Washington said. “Mistrust in fellow coworkers is sown, and those the training is intended to help are actually harmed in the long run.”

On Monday, Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper signed and sent letters to John M. Gore, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and acting chairman Victoria Lipnic at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The letters question the “troubling” implications of “workplace practices focusing on ‘implicit’ or ‘unconscious’ bias.”

Specifically, the letter asks whether the training violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.

The letter states, in part:

Employers are increasingly adopting so-called “implicit bias” training, which targets employees by race or gender. Not only are the tests associated with unconscious bias well short of meeting scientific standards, but because they purport to aid employers in targeting employees primarily based on their race or ethnicity and/or their gender they potentially allow employees to be assessed, disciplined or promoted on the basis of race or gender activity which Title VII specifically bars. Whether based on good intentions or not, an employer’s plan to hire, promote or advance employees who are minority and/or female using implicit bias as a motive disadvantages non-minority and male employees.

The letter also states that Project 21 “believe[s] that this employment technique is a violation” of civil rights law and that the federal government should probe the matter to see if “implicit bias” programs conflict with Title VII protections.

“Workplace discrimination dressed up as tolerance is still illegal,” Cooper said. “All Americans are protected regardless of race or gender, and the Feds need to make that clear before this troublesome trend spreads.”

Project 21 has been a leader in the black conservative movement for 25 years.

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