In an effort to open up the discussion of race inequality in response to the radically-charged events which have recently unfolded across the nation, Starbucks released an insert explaining the reasoning behind the launch of their “Race Together” campaign in 2 million copies of USA Today. The eight-page insert appeared in USA Today on March 20 and included charts and statistics about diversity including “What is the chance the next person I meet will be different from me?” a true or false quiz titled “What Do You Think You Know About Race?” and timelines about the progress of racial equality.
“To ignore, dismiss or fail to productively engage our differences is to stifle our collective potential,” Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said in the insert. “Diversity of thought and skills lead to more creative ideas and higher performance.”
Baristas were encouraged to write “Race Together” on Starbucks cups when handing customers their coffee, as well as open conversations about racial equality with customers. According to politifact.com, when announcing the campaign, Schultz referred to it as “an opportunity to begin to re-examine how we can create a more empathetic and inclusive society — one conversation at a time.”
Despite the intentions by Starbucks, heavy criticism over the campaign and its publicizing tactics had the company end the campaign less than a week after it began. However, according to politifact.com, other parts of the campaign will continue. According to a letter from Schultz to Starbucks partners regarding “Race Together” via news.starbucks.com, the company plans to have “more partner open forums, three more special sections co-produced with USA Today over the course of the next year, more open dialogue with police and community leaders in cities across our country,” as part of the campaign.
“Anytime a major corporation wants to engage the issue of race openly and honestly, it is a good thing,” Chair and Associate Professor of Black Studies, Major Coleman said. “Although people may not want to talk about this while getting their coffee in the morning, this doesn’t mean that this isn’t a conversation that needs to take place.”
Coleman said that it would serve Starbucks better to place a forum on their website where competent professionals or spokesmen who know and understand racial issues could engage customers in conversation online. According to Coleman, for one to judge how valid the campaign is, analyzing how racially integrated the Starbucks corporate structure is themselves would be the first place to look.
“I don’t fault Starbucks for trying, it doesn’t seem that any other organization of this size is attempting to act as a platform for the discussion of race,” fourth-year business major Billy McArdle said. “I respect CEO Howard Schultz, but this seems like too much to take on.”
McArdle said he believed there to be an expectation of negative feedback for a campaign of this nature, but respected that Starbucks would create a platform around themselves for the discussion of racism. Baristas of the Starbucks at 1 Plattekill Ave. in the New Paltz Village said that since taking part in the campaign was voluntary, all of the baristas chose to not participate.
“‘Race Together’ is not a solution, but it is an opportunity to begin to re-examine how we can create a more empathetic and inclusive society — one conversation at a time,” Schultz said.