Home / Spring 2015 / 2015-04-23 / Starbucks heats up race conversation: Franchise tries to get customers to talk about race with baristas
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Starbucks heats up race conversation: Franchise tries to get customers to talk about race with baristas

Written by: Kenzie Kesselring, Asst. Opinions Editor


Starbucks declared its’ longing for Americans to “race together,” but not all coffee drinkers seem thrilled about the idea.

It’s not that Americans are opposed to talking about race, but many don’t seem to want to at 8am over a tall skinny vanilla latte.

The campaign launched by Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz premiered in a full-page ad in the New York Times in the middle of March. The ad was simple and featured the words “race together” with the Starbucks’ logo underneath.

Schultz told Fortune the reason he feels America needs to start talking about race in an interview soon after the promotion began.

“It’s an emotional issue. But it is so vitally important to the country,” said Schultz.

One would think Starbucks would be the perfect company to kick start such a controversial campaign. The company has spoken out about other hot topics in the past and according to Fortune, out of all 200,000 people employed by Starbucks 40 percent are members of a racial minority.

According to CNN and the U.S Census, America is at a peak of racial diversity with 13 percent of the population being African American and 17 percent being Hispanic. It would seem that now is as good a time as any to talk about racial diversity in America, but Starbucks goers and experts don’t quite agree.

“Ever since the #RaceTogether fiasco, I get really self-conscious at Starbucks when they ask me if I want light or dark roast,” said writer and comedian Dana Schwartz via Twitter.

Matt Glowacki, a diversity expert who teaches students and leaders how to properly handle and celebrate diversity through a seminar called “Diversity According to Family Guy and South Park,” expressed his thoughts on Starbucks’ movement during a seminar at the South Eastern Panhellenic Conference at the end of March.

“In the context of appropriateness, I don’t know you, I have no emotional investment in you, you’re handing me a coffee, and then there’s 50 people behind me, so you have an invested interest in getting me out of the way,” said Glowacki.

“I don’t like that they were trying to do this in a really impossible situation. Also, the more I hear about it, the more it sounds like they were just trying to get their brand out there instead of improving this controversy,” said Glowacki.

The issue of racial tensions in America is not something that ended in the 1960s. It is noble of Starbucks to try and contribute to the healing people need in regards to race, but a coffee house is not an ideal place to have conversation about race issues in our country.

Starbucks should be applauded for their attempt at spicing up a morning coffee run with a dose of reality, but a little more forethought could have gone a long way.

It is highly unlikely that Starbucks will back down from confronting tough issues head on in the future, but Americans don’t seem to be quite ready for this tall order.



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