Cleveland anti-bias expert: Starbucks should hold uncomfortable 'courageous conversations'

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - With Starbucks making headlines for closing Tuesday afternoon for employee sensitivity training, Cleveland 19 went to local experts to get views on what should be addressed with workers.

Steve Sroka has lectured for decades on the topic, and sums up his thoughts with a quote an Indian elder gave him on a reservation: "Until you've walked a mile in my moccasins and looked through my eyes don't should on me. Don't tell me what I should be doing. That is huge."

Attorney Terry Gilbert has pressed hundreds of discrimination cases in court.

He would advise Starbucks to council employees this way: "You cannot presume that anybody different from you is up to no good. That kind of thinking just can't exist."

At the Starbucks on Clifton Boulevard, the doors were locked and employees had gathered for training.

"You're not going to change someone's behavior in three hours, but you can start," said Sroka regarding Tuesday training sessions.

Sroka's bottom line is sobering when you hear it directed at you personally.

"If I ask you, Paul, 'Are you biased?' And you say, 'No, I'm not biased.' Well that already indicates that you probably are because you're not aware of your biases. Are you reflecting the thoughts of the blacks, the Hispanics, the gays, lesbians, the Jewish?"

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