Starbucks Closing Thousands of Stores Nationwide for Anti-Bias Training

Starbucks will close thousands of stores on Tuesday afternoon so employees can undergo anti-bias training.

The training at more than 8,000 stores nationwide is part of an effort to restore the company's tarnished diversity-friendly image after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month. Click here for a list of updated store hours.

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave a Center City store after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting. The incident was recorded by cellphones and went viral.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free education. They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to establish a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Tuesday's four-hour training session, developed by the Perception Institute, has brought attention to the little-known world of "unconscious bias training" used by corporations, police departments and other organizations. It's designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.

Alexis McGill Johnson, Perception's co-founder and executive director, says anti-bias training is about awareness.

"The work that we want to do is not say you're a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes," she said.

A video previewing the training says it will include recorded remarks from Starbucks executives as well as rapper and activist Common. From there, the company says, employees will "move into a real and honest exploration of bias."

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said people should not place high expectations on this one day.

"We find that oftentimes diversity training has mixed effects, and in some cases, it can even backfire and lead people who are kind of already reactive to these issues to become even more polarized," Lai said.

The anti-bias training will take place beginning at 2:30 p.m.

AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio contributed to this report.

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