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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Scientists warn of a 6th Mass Extinction

Looking back through earth’s history there are five mass extinction events. You will have learnt about the last at school when dinosaurs waved their fond farewell. It was during the Cretaceous–Paleogene period that a mix of volcanic activity and asteroids resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of life on the planet, 65 million years ago. For the last year scientists have been warning that the 6th mass extinction is showing its face…

“Earth is now in a period of mass global species extinction for vertebrate animals,” Professor Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México says, “but the true extent of this mass extinction has been underestimated”.

Here in the UK lots of well-known birds and animals are seeing their numbers plummet: hedgehogs, skylarks and birds of prey are being wiped out. Since 2000 the number of hedgehogs has halved and nearly two-thirds of skylarks and lapwings have disappeared. To blame is partly a farming industry which is described as factory farming that destroys the local environment through intensification; use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides; and the planting of large amounts of identical crops.

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“If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too.”

A Liverpool chant from the terraces, to the tune of the 1996 hit ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, has demonstrated once again that Britain is an inclusive society which celebrates our differences. The chant is praising Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian footballer who has scored 23 Premier goals for Liverpool this season. The chant, “If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few then I’ll be Muslim too. If he’s good enough for you he’s good enough for me, he’s sitting in the mosque that’s where I wanna be” has been described by Liverpool fan Asif Bodi as showing “how tolerant and welcoming the people of Liverpool really are.”

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Salah is praying above. Sujud means to prostrate. It is like the position used in Muslim prayer movements: palms, knees, toes, forehead and nose must be the only body parts touching the ground. During prayer when someone is in this prostration position they would say ‘Glory be to God, the Most High’ repeated three times.

There are lots of Muslim players in the English Premiership. Mesut Ozil who is a German World Cup winner, and currently playing for Arsenal, is proud of his religion and happy to show it on the pitch. “I’m a Muslim, I believe in that. You can see before games that I pray and that I’m pleased to be able to go on this path. It gives me a lot of strength,” he said. “I’m someone who’s always been thankful, someone who doesn’t just wish the best for me but for the people. It’s a very important part of my life. What’s important is to come together and show respect.” In the picture below Ozil is praying with his hands in front and the palms upwards. During the prayer hands are kept openly up, towards the heavens. The two palms, standing at the level of chest as scale of a balance, wait openly for the blessings of the All-Compassionate Allah, from the heavens to come.

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Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a multi-faith fans’ prayer room as does Liverpool’s main stand which was refurbished in 2016. This allows Muslims and fans of any faith to nip in for a prayer during their time watching football and supporting their teams.

From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!

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#MosqueMeToo

An Egyptian-American journalist called Mona Eltahawy recently talked about her experience of sexual assault during Hajj in 2013. Since then #MosqueMeToo has started to grow. Muslim men and women from all round the world have been using the hashtag and in less than 24 hours it was tweeted 2,000 times.

Each year about 2 million Muslims undertake Hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Going on this special pilgrimage should not involve being inappropriately touched or having someone rub against you in the crowd, things which have been reported using the #MosqueMeToo on Twitter. Some women have said they were fearful of publicising the harassment and sexual assaults incase it fuelled more Islamophobia.

Reading the BBC article you’ll stumble across key GCSE words such as:

Knowing that Hajj is a pilgrimage and one of the Five Pillars is not enough for the GCSE. You’ll need to know what the different parts of the Hajj are and why pilgrims participate in them. This isn’t a waste of time because by learning about Hajj you’ll understand some key stories of Islam about Ibrahim and discover Muslim beliefs about faith and forgiveness. These short videos from the BBC are a quick way to get that information. Type Hajj into this wordpress’ SEARCH engine and you’ll find previous links for Hajj too.

Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year, and isn’t one of the five pillars so you don’t have to do it in your lifetime. In May 2017 football player Paul Pogba went on Umrah to say his thanks for Manchester United’s Europa League win.

Tawaf (Arabic: طواف) is one of the principal actions of the pilgrimage and refers to walking in circles around the Kaaba in an anti-clockwise motion. Seven complete circuits, with each one starting and ending at the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone), constitute one Tawaf. It is an act of devotion intended to bring the pilgrim closer to God spiritually. It is the only principal action of Hajj and Umrah which is not associated directly with acts of worship performed by the Prophet Ibrahim.

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The Hijab is one type of headscarf which Muslim women might wear to maintain a modest look so that their hair and body is not on show in public. Some people believe that what a woman wears can affect whether she is harassed in public. In Iran where women have to wear the hijab by law, a popular slogan on the walls of public buildings is “Hijab is not a limitation, it is your protection.”

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