Caving to leftist outrage, Starbucks has promised to close its stores for a day of racial bias training after two black men were arrested at one of its Philadelphia locations.
Of course, social science research backs up what common sense already tells us: telling people that they’re racist won’t make them less racist, and may even backfire.
But it makes no difference to Starbucks whether their bias training works. The important thing for them is to mollify angry customers so they’ll buy their coffee again.
Nobody — not Starbucks, not the left — actually thinks bias training will solve racism.
At bottom, bias training is a form of moral policing. Its purpose is to indoctrinate people with the cultish belief that they are bigoted whether they realize it or not. This makes people feel guilty and afraid, enabling the left to manufacture consent to their policy agenda. And it lets companies like Starbucks off the hook — for now.
First things first: Bias training doesn’t work
Bias training is based on the idea that unconscious judgments about a person’s race or gender impact our behavior towards them. But it doesn’t actually reduce discrimination.
A 2016 study by sociologists Alexandra Kalev and Frank Dobbin found that diversity training actually led managers at hundreds of companies from 1985 to 2000 to hire fewer women and minorities.
The reason? They resented being told that they were bigoted, which led to a backlash.
A 2017 meta-analysis of nearly 500 studies on reducing discrimination through unconscious bias training found only a weak link between altering biases and changes in behavior. Other research suggests that thinking consciously about stereotypes only encourages people to see the world through these stereotypical lenses.
Who would have thought?
Bias training is really moral policing
If the purpose of bias training is to make people “unlearn” bigotry, then it is an exercise in futility. Bias training is premised on the notion that we all have learned, unconscious biases. But if these biases are unconscious, how can we erase them for good?
The short answer is: we can’t. All we can do is censor them when they appear.
And while bias training typically portrays stereotypes as learned, it is becoming increasingly common for the left to describe bigotry as something inherent. On the far-left, the belief that all white people are racist, no matter what they do, is now taken as an article of faith.
If that’s the case, what good is bias training?
Even Starbucks’ CEO has acknowledged that bias training is “just the beginning.” Critics on the left agree that bias training is a convenient way for white, “woke” corporate progressives to pat themselves on the back without making a difference.
But if bias training is just the “beginning,” then what comes next? Some have suggested that making Starbucks’ staff more diverse is the logical next step.
In other words, nobody — not Starbucks, not leftists — really expects that bias training alone will make a substantive difference. It is merely the first step before the real change.
And how would this bias training get the ball rolling on fighting discrimination? By getting people to feel guilty, ashamed, and afraid over beliefs they may not even have, of course.
If bias training succeeds at all, it is by getting people to internalize fear.
Simply put, bias training is a form of moral policing, a way of manufacturing consent with progressive ideas on diversity and inclusion. Getting people to affirm that they are racist, even unconsciously, gives the left the social consensus to pursue their cultural program.
Like Freudian psychology, the idea of unconscious bias is an effective indoctrination tool because it posits the existence of a belief that, by definition, is not knowable to us. Since it is impossible to prove that an unconscious belief does not exist, there is no way for a person, once they buy into this indoctrination, to know whether it is true.
Indeed, if bias training is about getting people to acknowledge that they are racist, then it is pointless. The idea that people are unconsciously biased is widespread now in our culture. We hear constantly, from the media and in college courses, that racism is institutionalized and internalized in all of us.
What difference will more leftist re-education make?
What this boils down to: Liberalism as a religion
Regardless of the subsequent actions of Starbucks, it does seem plausible that the two men in question in the incident that has sparked this “bias training” were racially profiled — which of course, is wrong.
But does the scale of the response match the crime?
These days, the left reacts to every perceived injustice, from the most trivial to the most severe, with zealous outrage. They behave like cult members.
Seeing the left as a religion explains the outsized reaction to this incident. The parallels between liberalism and religion have been pointed out by many, almost to the point of banality — but the analogy holds. Liberals think and behave just like the members of any religion.
Before any person converts to Christianity, they have to acknowledge that they are a sinner and that they reject Satan. Racial bias training serves much the same purpose, but for the progressive cult of diversity.
It is hard not to hear the religious overtones in the way the left talks about race, bias, and discrimination. Images of blindness versus sight, and sleep versus wakefulness, run through the whole history of religion and philosophy, from Plato and Jesus Christ down to today’s “woke” progressives. The pervasive bigotry that leftists see everywhere in the world and in themselves is their own peculiar version of sin.
Just like in Christianity, this sin exists within us whether we realize it or not. It can only be overcome by “waking up” and seeing the world for what it really is: full of subliminal racism, sexism, and xenophobia.
We can be sure that the left won’t be satisfied with unconscious bias training. This is just the beginning. Starbucks should expect to see calls to diversify its workforce escalate.
The real irony is that Starbucks is learning the hard way that it can no longer signal shallow commitments to progressive ideas without getting sucked into the cult full-stop.
Now, Starbucks will make sure its employees really believe the stuff.