Racism Can’t Be Fixed Over A Cup Of Coffee?
Earlier this week Starbucks launched their new Race Together initiative along with USA Today. The program is pretty simple, it basically just encourages baristas — or as Starbucks calls their employees– partners to write the words “Race Together” on their cups to get their customers talking about race. The project is being pushed on social media and the company website via photos of workers and customers happily holding up their cups.
The initiative follows a December open forum at company headquarters in Seattle where employees discussed racial tensions in the U.S. following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
If you missed it the first time, here’s video:
“If we just keep going about our business and ringing the Starbucks register every day and ignoring this, then I think we are, in a sense, part of the problem,” Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz told employees at the initial forum.
That meeting was followed by gatherings in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, New York and St. Louis which were attended by over 2,000 Starbucks employees. And while Starbucks employees seem incredibly enthusiastic about the initiative, their enthusiasm has been met in large part by public cynicism.
Many of those who aren’t feeling Race Together have pointed out that Starbucks isn’t the best corporate example when it comes to diversity hiring on a leadership level. Others question the lack of experience baristas may have to conduct conversations about complicated racial issues.
On Twitter the backlash was so intense that Starbucks SVP of Global Communications Corey duBrowa actually DELETED his account, only to revive it the following day with a blog entry explaining his decision to flee.
In the pages that follow we’ve captured screencaps that address Race Together from a variety of perspectives, both positive and negative, as well as neutral.
When I first read about the initiative Tuesday I initially agreed that the coffee pushers probably bit off more than they can chew — but after reading more about the program and watching some of the town halls that inspired it — I’m more inclined to be open to what they’ve admitted is just a start. Howard Schultz has gone on record saying he hopes Race Together will help inspire other corporations to do something as well.
Watching the backlash on Twitter, I can’t help but think to the recent police shooting episode of “Scandal” (before the cop turned out to be dirty) when the protestors seemed so intent on being angry that even Olivia couldn’t do much to help their plight.
Is it time “certain folks” take it down a notch? Common may have a point. Here we have not just a group of individuals but a HUGE CORPORATE ENTITY who wants to actually DO SOMETHING about race relations. I realize a kumbaya circle isn’t going to get us reparations or pay us back for slavery or bring our dead loved ones back to life — but I agree that discourse, no matter how uncomfortable, is healthy.
What’s really at stake here? Making tolerance trendy?
Is that such a bad thing?
And for the people who think Starbucks is acting brand new when it comes to social responsibility — they’re not. In 2013, two days after 12 people died in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, Schultz “respectfully” requested customers not bring guns into Starbucks.
So, what do you think? Is the Twitter backlash out of order — or should Starbucks have taken different steps and done better planning before launching this initiative? Last but not least — is it possible that talking about race over a cup of coffee CAN bring actual change?
Hit the flip for some tweets weighing in.
Janee Bolden is Deputy Editor at Bossip.com