Oregon State workshop to teach ordering Starbucks is an implicit bias

Oregon State University (OSU) will be hosting a workshop called “Making the Unknown Known: Exploring Implicit Bias in Everyday Life” as part of a nine-day commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. The workshop will teach students “to uncover and challenge the implicit biases that contribute to injustice.”

Among these “implicit biases that contribute to injustice” is “ordering coffee,” according to the workshop’s description.

“What do the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Fair Housing Act in late June, recent killings of black men by white police officers, and a person ordering coffee at Starbucks have in common? Answer: Implicit bias,” the description states.

Implicit biases, according to the event description, are “stereotypes that influence our perceptions, judgements, and behaviors in an unconscious manner,” meaning an act as unconscious as ordering coffee could be a bias incident that contributes to injustice.

Michele Ribeiro, interim mental health promotion director at OSU who helped organize the workshop, told Campus Reform ordering coffee could be considered an implicit bias “because it is a common everyday thing people do.”

“Just because it is a common everyday thing people do…order coffee…implicit bias is also a common everyday thing people do, though maybe not conscious,” she explained.

When asked to clarify how ordering coffee can “contribute to injustice,” Ribeiro did not answer the question directly and instead apologized for the lack of clarity in the event description.

The workshop description also lists the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Fair Housing Act as another example of an implicit bias. The Fair Housing Act, however, ruled that plaintiffs can challenge discriminatory government or private policies without having to show evidence of intentional discrimination.

Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of upholding an earlier interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which affirms housing discrimination does not have to be intentional to be illegal. Many considered the ruling a victory for social justice, which makes it puzzling to call it an “implicit bias.”

OSU will also be hosting another workshop called “Places of Injustice,” which will simply point out the places at OSU named after historical figures with ties to slavery and racism.

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