Editorial: Roseanne, Starbucks and dealing with differences

Businesses sure have a minefield to walk through in this social media age.

Tuesday highlighted that minefield. After a racist tweet by Roseanne Barr, ABC canceled her hit show, which was revived to great success this year. Meanwhile, Starbucks closed its doors at 8,000 stores across the U.S. Tuesday afternoon to give anti-bias training to its 175,000 workers.

It's an important step for the company and socially significant for all of us as it puts a focus on something that we all too often might ignore.

But after a video went viral last month when two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia store for doing nothing but sitting in the store, Starbucks immediately apologized and set up the training day for its employees.

Other companies need to take note and employees, no matter how high up or how important they may be in the organization, need to rethink their behavior. Times are changing and rules of decorum are being reset. It will take time, but these are important first steps.

The same can be said following the #metoo movement after the Harvey Weinstein case made headlines last year. Sexual harassment, racial bias, social media guidelines - all these issues should be discussed in board rooms and training rooms at businesses large and small.

We practice what we preach at the Daily Herald, by the way. All our managers went through sexual harassment training last week in sessions that got people thinking, learning and reacting in the right way.

While one day of training won't cure all of society's ills, we expect it to lead to better outcomes than what happened in Philadelphia.

"We have really made it clear that one training is not enough, and this needs to be part of an ongoing review of their policies. They really need to commit," said Heather McGhee, president of the social advocacy organization Demos, who is helping advise the company.

For many just explaining what unconscious bias is will be illuminating. A common example, according to trainers working with Starbucks, is a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behavior.

"The work that we want to do is not say you're a bad person because you have a stereotype about a group, but say this is why your brain may have these stereotypes" said Alexis McGill Johnson, the co-founder and executive director of The Perception Institute, which also is consulting with Starbucks, as quoted in an Associated Press story.

But, whatever their source, stereotypes and the way we handle them do have consequences for businesses, their employees and their customers.

And, as Roseanne Barr and ABC Television found on Tuesday, for entertainers and television networks.

In short, we'll all do well to learn how to deal with each other and our differences much more constructively in our workplaces, in social settings and in the way we conduct ourselves online.

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