Naturally when one enters the often busy confines of a Starbucks cafe location, that person is looking for a hot or cold cup of caffeine goodness. This week, however, you might get far more than you bargained for as Starbucks wants to broach the touchy topic of race before you sip your java.
Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz was led to bring up the subject after witnessing the recent situations in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Oakland, and other major cities where race and racism are hot button topics. Schultz held an open forum with the company’s partners, their word for employees, last December and knew it was a rocky subject to approach. Several more of these forum discussions happened eternally, thus sparking the #RaceTogether campaign.
In the Sunday (Mar. 15) edition of the New York Times, a full-page color ad was placed in the paper with the caption “Shall we overcome” along with the #RaceTogether logo in the end. What Schultz envisions is that baristas will engage customers by writing #RaceTogether on their cups and even invite conversations in a bid to gain some understanding.
Schultz seems to realize that the Race Together initiative isn’t going to end the ugly specter of racism in our country. However, he does hope this moves the needle into, in his words, a “more empathetic and inclusive society.”
This benevolent gesture looks good on paper, and most accounts of Schultz show that he’s a man of the people. But race and racism are literal powder keg discussions waiting to blow. Can you imagine if a barista writes #RaceTogether on the wrong cup one morning and all heck breaks loose? Who handles that damage control? It becomes tricky at that point.
Who knows, maybe Starbucks is on to something with this #RaceTogether thing. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Hit the following pages for images from the #RaceTogether campaign.