Sunday, 3 June 2018

Starbucks anti-racism training, and my own near failure.


As you may have read in an earlier blog I disdain the word "racism" since it is rooted in the White Nationalist perverted notion that there is a black race and a white race.  Not so.  There is but one race, the human race.  

Nevertheless I will have to use the word in this blog since it has (sadly) entered common currency).

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By now unless you live under a rock in a remote part of Alaska you will have heard of the horrible incidents in a couple of Starbucks coffee houses. You will also know that Starbucks closed all their (U.S.A.?) joints for a day of anti-racism training for their employees.

All well and good.  But I give the effort a B not an A.

This is for a couple of reasons:

1)  I need to be sure that Starbucks offers a just and living wage to its employees.

2) I need to be reassured  that Starbucks employment policies include active and determined affirmative action in favour of minorities.  

When did you see a black barista? 

How many "racial" minority men and women are in middle management at Starbucks?

3) I am utterly sceptical about the value of the training which does little more than to provide information.

Information alone does not change hearts, minds, attitudes and behaviours.  (Just think about the information we are given about (say) safe driving, or healthy eating to which we give mental assent, but which does not change our behaviour).

What does help to move us towards change is not information, but encounter. I can ignore information.  I can be compelled by encounter.

Starbucks will be a more just corporation when its run of the mill employees encounter black and brown people at the highest levels in corporate management.

The same is true of the Episcopal Church.  We pat ourselves on the back because we have a black Presiding Bishop in the Rt. Revd. Michael Curry.  But in the Florida based Diocese and the  Parish I know best (despite all our anti-racism training)  there is not a single black, brown (or female) Priest in middle to upper positions of leadership.  So much theory, so little practice.

Then there is me

In my recent trip to Atlanta I took the MARTA train from the Airport 

to North Springs - a 45 minute ride from south to north.

South Atlanta is mostly black, poor and deprived.

North Atlanta is chiefly white, wealthy and "successful".

In the first half of the journey I was the only white skinned passenger in my compartment .   The others were black skinned young men.

I felt myself tense up -  Lord knows why.

Then I kicked my own bum as I recognised my own failure. 

There was no good or valid reason in God's good creation for me to feel fear or tension.

I let go.  I made eye contact with the nearest young man.  We exchanged some pleasantries.

It was nice.

But even in this sweet encounter I knew that I held all the cards. 

Such is the nature of my white privilege for which I claim no merit or honour.


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