You know that list of companies that are outspoken about gay marriage? The ones that tell gun advocates to put their firearms away when walking into their stores? The ones that pay your tuition and boast unity from their liberal boardrooms?
Starbucks is that company.
So it was only a matter of time before the inevitable came. Tackling race. And that’s just what CEO Howard Schultz is encouraging his employees to do.
Sparked by open forums for workers to discuss race in the wake of national protests to dismantle police violence and confront racial tensions, the company has launched their newest initiative Race Together — a campaign to foster healthy racial dialogue between baristas and customers.
The Washington Post reports:
In partnership with USA Today, Starbucks has launched a week-long campaign under the banner “Race Together” to get staff and customers talking about race. In a video message, Schultz urges “partners” to write the phrase on their paper cups “to facilitate a conversation between you and our customers.” A USA Today supplement, set to be published March 20, includes a number of “conversation starters,” including the fill-in-the-blank question: “In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.”
Interesting, given that you can see what types of interactions customers of color are having with their baristas just by clicking the insightful hashtag #StarbucksRaceStory.
And on the flip side, some people aren’t too happy about engaging in dialogue with a company that many are critically examining as the problem, not the solution.
Starbucks is going to discuss race relations without addressing gentrification. Interesting.
— Kim Moore (@SoulRevision) March 17, 2015
But Schultz, who wants to “promote a new level of understanding and sensitivity about the issue,” according to CNN Money, says the forums and discussions aren’t created to point fingers. No Sway, Starbucks isn’t claiming to have the answers. But for Shultz, “staying silent is not who we are.”
“We have problems in this country with regard to race and racial inequality and we believe we’re better than this and we believe the country is better than this,” he said.
In any case, the campaign isn’t going over too well with those directly affected by racism. Especially since teaching privileged customers who come to buy $7 lattes isn’t in a barista’s job description. We’re guessing that’s the last thing they want to do.
This can go a bunch of different ways and none of them are pointing up. Except for this clever hashtag that brilliantly mocks Starbucks’ effort. Because it’s great. And we can’t stop laughing.
— ♓vee (@islandVivi) March 17, 2015
BY ANY BEANS NECESSARY! #NewStarbucksDrinks
— John Muller (@mrjohnmuller) March 17, 2015
Mocha Money, Mocha Problems #NewStarbucksDrinks
— rayvawn (@thatssorayvawn) March 17, 2015
Venti Rights Act #NewStarbucksDrinks
— jujoffer (@jujoffer) March 17, 2015
Some of My Best Friends Are Black Coffee #NewStarbucksDrinks
— Imani ABL (@AngryBlackLady) March 17, 2015
Cultural Appropriccino #NewStarbucksDrinks
— Tay’Quan C. Jenkins (@KeepingUpWithKH) March 17, 2015
Starbucks may want to employ Twitter to do the job for them. We’re just saying.