POLUMBO: Starbucks’ “Implicit Bias” Day is a Virtue-Signaling Scam


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Good luck getting a “triple-mocha frappuccino” or “caramel macchiato” today. Nearly every company-owned Starbucks in the nation closed down this afternoon, so that 180,000 employees can receive implicit bias training, aimed to promote racial sensitivity and address subconscious biases.

This move comes after a highly-publicized incident at a Starbucks in April, where a store manager in Philadelphia called the police on two African-American men for refusing to leave the store. The left condemned the subsequent arrest of both men as racist, and public outcry pushed the coffee company to close down 8,000 stores for today’s training. But there’s no actual evidence that Starbucks has a racism problem, and their implicit bias training “solution” is based on shoddy science — so the company’s latest move is just another example of progressive pandering.

It’s hard to see how Starbucks, of all places, is in dire need of racial re-education. The allegedly-racist manager who called the police in that April incident is a left-wing social justice warrior who regularly interacted with customers of all races, and besides, she’s since left the company.

But should she have been fired? The two men weren’t paying customers, and were warned multiple times that they would be arrested if they kept refusing to leave, as company policy reserved seating for those who actually buy something. Yet even if the manager’s termination was justified, it’s hard to see how one incident of bias involving one manager in one store equates to a systemic, nationwide racism problem that Starbucks must shut down to address.

This incident aside, the harsh truth is that implicit-bias training is based on bogus science. Most of this pseudoscience comes from Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, a nifty interactive web tool that can supposedly sort out the racists from the rest of us. The tool asks users to match the faces of people of different races with positive and negative associations, and uses any patterns that emerge to draw broad conclusions about subconscious biases.

The only problem? The test fails the basic scientific standard of repeatability, and users who take the test multiple times (myself included) can get widely different results. The IAT’s results would even suggest that 50 percent of black people have subconscious biases in favor of white people. It’s highly unlikely that’s actually an accurate measurement of African-American mentality. 

Most measures of implicit bias may be meaningless. Time and time again, researchers have found that implicit bias has little to no effect on people’s actual behavior. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “everyone agrees that the statistical effect linking bias to behavior is slight.” One report from the American Psychological Association even found that implicit bias awareness can actually reinforce stereotypes and encourage people to act in a more discriminatory manner. So if measuring or changing people’s implicit biases doesn’t reduce racist behavior, then why bother with this so-called “training?”

It turns out that the implicit-bias agenda is tied to left-wing economic interests. Diversity training has become an 8 billion dollar industry, and “diversity managers” can earn as much as $120,000 a year. The left is deeply invested in this junk science — and that’s what companies like Starbucks are trying to exploit.

By closing down for the day, the company will lose $12 million in missed profit, but in the long run, political correctness can apparently be a good business model. Starbucks knows that they don’t actually have a racism problem — if anything, they’re too “woke” —- so really they’re just pandering. Company executives aren’t idiots, and they know that 3 hours of “training” on a Tuesday afternoon won’t actually change much — but it’s great PR.

In America today, virtue-signaling pays dividends. So it’s no surprise that Starbucks’ anti-racism efforts have received gushing coverage across the media. For a company that posts $660 million in profits quarterly, a few million in shutdown costs is a small price to pay to appease their left-wing client base.

Now the Starbucks shutdown might actually be a shrewd business decision — but let’s stop pretending that the coffee company cares about anything other than their bottom line. If Starbucks were really concerned about racism, it wouldn’t be pushing pseudoscience just to pander to progressives.

Brad Polumbo is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an outspoken critic of PC culture and a free-speech advocate. His focus is on cultural issues and civil liberties.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Bradley Polumbo

Brad Polumbo is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an outspoken critic of PC culture and a free-speech advocate. His focus is on cultural issues and civil liberties.

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