In the end, this turned out to be in ill considered experiment which essentially blew up in a rich, progressive person’s face. When you go to Starbucks tomorrow to get your morning coffee (assuming you can stomach their product) you will no longer be required to engage in a discussion on racial unrest.
Less than a week after Starbucks SBUX -0.34% announced its ambitious “Race Together” initiative aimed at stoking dialog about the hot-button issue, the coffee company is ending a key part of the program.
As of Sunday, baristas will no longer be writing the words “Race Together” (or placing stickers) on cups they hand customers as a signal to start a chat about one of the most polarizing issues in American life, an effort meant as a centerpiece for the broader and longer term program but one widely ridiculed on social meeting after it was announced last week.
“While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” CEO Howard Schultz said in a letter to employees on Sunday.
Schultz isn’t done with this idea entirely. He will still be buying large advertisements and inserts in USA Today and giving the papers away for free in his stores. Say… there’s another great idea! All of the people running news stands in the neighborhoods around each Starbucks must really appreciate somebody giving away free newspapers. Howard is just helping people everywhere he goes.
I did hear an excellent point brought up this morning when the story was being batted around on one of the cable news shows. If Howard Schultz really wanted to talk about race relations in America, perhaps he could start by explaining to people why there are no Starbucks located in so many cities and neighborhoods with a majority of black or Hispanic residents? Highland Park and Benton Harbor, Michigan, East St. Louis, Illinois, Gary, Indiana and… Selma, Alabama. They all have one thing in common: no Starbucks. If you’re really all that concerned with kicking off a contentious discussion on race, shouldn’t you include somebody aside from rich, white hipsters gulping down their triple foam soy latte with double cinnamon?
I’ll leave you with this video from John Oliver. (Even if you don’t like his HBO show, this is a pretty good clip.) In it, he points out the number of black Twitter users who posted pictures of the Starbucks executive board (almost entirely white males) and all of their online advertising which shows their coffee cups being held by white hands. And then there’s this gem.
“I think it’s pretty clear that nobody has said ‘no’ to this guy in 25 years.”