Starbucks staff needed racism training

Earlier this week Starbucks closed thousands of its coffee shops across the US so that its staff could receive so-called “unconscious bias” training, so they’d be able to recognise and overcome the ingrained prejudices most of us don’t even know we have. Why was this necessary and could it work to help reduce racism?

What prompted the training?

In Philadelphia, USA about a month ago two African-American men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, went to a Starbucks for a meeting but got there a bit early. So they sat down, one asked where the toilets were, before buying any coffee or snacks. The result was that less than a few minutes later the white Starbucks employee rang 911 (equivalent to 999 in the USA). The police arresting them was filmed on someone’s mobile phone and got a huge amount of hits on social media. The two men spoke to ABC News about their experience.

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Will the training really work?

A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK found “mixed results” for sessions aimed at reducing bias and “limited” evidence that they change behaviour.

Other people have criticised the unconscious bias training as implying that the racism is a psychological issue when it really should have been getting staff to participate in anti-racist education that looks at the historical roots of the problem.

When it comes to stopping racism like what happened in Philadelphia occurring again perhaps the rules should change, so that people aren’t told to leave if they sit down before buying their cup of coffee and are allowed to use the toilet without making purchases.

Answering questions on Ramadan

The BBC have a short 2 minute video where Muslims answer the questions they often get asked each year during Ramadan. Sticking with the BBC their article from early May has some great facts about teeth brushing and the exchange of bodily fluids (kissing!).

People wonder how Muslims who are fasting can cope with sport and exercise during Ramadan, BBC Sport explains that often the lack of sleep is what makes sport more difficult whilst fasting, as Muslims will have stayed up late to eat once the sun has set or got up really early to eat before their next day of fasting and the sun rising.

McDonald’s have made a Ramadan advert which helps sum up what a day of fasting feels like for a Muslim. The 2018 Coca-cola Ramadan advert might educate someone who has never heard of Ramadan before and is quite cheesy! JianHao Tan’s YouTube channel has a 10 minute video where he experiences a day of fasting with this two Muslim friends to help his viewers understand what Ramadan is. It’s a relaxing look at the topic and gives you plenty of information.

The poster below was created by the Muslim Council of Britain in 2013. Although the dates are wrong, the facts are useful to remind everyone that Ramadan isn’t only about fasting.

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Help the environment, stop consuming meat and dairy

It makes absolute sense. New research has shown that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. This is hugely important because the loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

When you also factor in that new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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Other interesting discoveries from the latest research were:

  1. Freshwater fish farming, which provides two-thirds of such fish in Asia and 96% in Europe, was thought to be relatively environmentally friendly but has a large impact. “You get all these fish depositing excreta and unconsumed feed down to the bottom of the pond, where there is barely any oxygen, making it the perfect environment for methane production,” a potent greenhouse gas, the report’s author explained.
  2. Grass-fed beef, thought to be relatively low impact, was still responsible for much higher impacts than plant-based food. “Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions.”

You should maybe think twice before you order a steak with a glass of milk!

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“Alexa, who is God?”

The Church of England has seen the number of people who go to church on a Sunday drop by 14% since 2006. So their next move might be seen as quite canny – worshippers are being offered the chance to ask the voice activated virtual assistant called Alexa (by Amazon) for prayers.

The Church of England’s new voice-activation skill (basically an app) allows a worshipper to ask their Amazon Alexa to perform more than 30 actions or questions, including:

  • Read today’s prayer
  • Find churches in or near a specified town
  • Who is God?
  • What it means to believe in God
  • Read the 10 Commandments

If you were going into a GCSE Religious Studies exam you should be able to answer the questions above as well as a virtual assistant!

66.4% to 33.6% vote in favour of overturning the abortion ban in Ireland

Watching how people debated the change in abortion law in Ireland showed the age old arguments about freedom for the woman against the right to life of an unborn child. 66.4% of voters wanted to repeal a part of the Irish constitution called the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has the same right to life as a pregnant woman which effectively bans terminations.

The vote will possibly affect those north of the border too, as Northern Ireland has the strictest abortion laws in the UK. In Northern Ireland even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality these would not be grounds for a legal termination.

In England there is talk to amend the law on abortion even further so that women could take the abortion pill at home rather than having to administer it at a clinic, which is very demeaning if you have to travel on public transport straight afterwards.  Christian and Muslim arguments about abortion are interestingly varied and sometimes not what you’d expect.

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A Powerful Wedding Sermon about Love

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The Right Reverend Michael Curry from the Episcopal Church (official name 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church) opened his speech at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding with the words of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, who said: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.’

He added: ‘Love can help and heal when nothing else can. ‘There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.’ Such power could be seen in the service, he continued, saying: ‘Two young people fell in love and we all showed up.’ He then added: ‘There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise. There is power, power in love.’

 

During his speech, he said the word ‘love’  58 times. Sometimes in Religious Studies answers we see students writing love about that many times when they try to explain the choices of religious people. Firstly there is the famous quote from Matthew 22…

Matthew 22: 36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

However students could also look in 1 Corinthians 13 to find information on the importance of love…

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Finally in Luke 10: 25 – 28 the Parable of the Good Samaritan has Jesus confirming to the ‘expert in the law’ that you should love thy neighbour as yourself…

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

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Going back to Michael Curry, he said of Saturday’s wedding:  ‘The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness. And so we celebrate and pray for them today.’

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A week long course on exorcism

250 catholic priests have just started their week long course in Rome this week to learn how to do exorcisms. This is a really controversial practise because it not only supports the idea that people can be possessed by evil demons but can also lead to people with mental health or psychological problems being treated in such a way.

This is how an exorcism happens:

  1. The person who is possessed may be bound, and holy water should be used.
  2. The priest will make the sign of the cross on the person at several times throughout.
  3. The priest calls on saints, prays and reads excerpts from the Bible in which Jesus drives out demons from people. In Jesus’ name, he asks the possessing demon to “yield to God” and “depart”, as many times as necessary.
  4. Once the priest is convinced the exorcism has worked, he prays to God to prevent the evil spirit from bothering the afflicted person further, and for the “goodness and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ” to take hold of the person instead.