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Starbucks closed on May 29 for racial insensitivity training. Photo: Xinhua/Yang Chenglin via Getty Images

Following the national outcry in response to the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April, the company shut all of its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial sensitivity training. The New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh sat in on one of the sessions, and recorded the podcast, titled "All the Caffeine in the World Doesn’t Make You Woke" on NPR's This American Life.

The big picture: Starbucks says the training day is the first step in a longer process aimed at helping customers "feel welcome" in the store. But, as Sanneh points out, the success of the company's efforts will be difficult to gauge moving forward.

The details

The trainings took place in 8,000 stores across the country and were self-directed with no official leader, Sanneh said. The sessions were broken down into three parts for employees to review:

  1. Acknowledging the differences between people.
  2. Recognizing racial biases, including structural biases embedded in laws and regulations as well as implicit biases created from stereotyping.
  3. Starbucks policies and their changes.

Employees were also given a 68-page booklet with a timeline specifying how long each section should take an employee to work through. They also received a 40-page handbook where they could document their feelings and reflections when experiencing "racial anxiety."

What the company is saying

Starbucks' former executive chairman, Howard Schultz, insists that the training day was not designed as a marketing ploy, despite some public skepticism about the plan and its effectiveness.

This has nothing to do with trying to sell anything.
— Howard Schultz
The bottom line

It's unclear how successful the training was, Sanneh said, but he could tell people made an effort to have meaningful conversations about race.

“Did it help? It’s hard to tell. Starbucks said it wasn’t measuring outcomes. But in this one conference room in Seattle, it felt sincere. Maybe even helpful."

Listen to the 60-minute podcast here.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.