In move that could be considered a STIHIE if it wasn’t so Onion-worthy and likely to backfire, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (guess his ethnicity!) now wants his baristas to discuss race relations with customers.
Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.
Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race. This Friday, each copy of USA Today — which has a daily print circulation of almost 2 million and is a partner of Starbucks in this initiative — will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.
If you think this is a terrible business move and will only further alienate non-lefty Whites from his coffee brand, Schultz dismisses those concerns as nonsense.
In a video addressing Starbucks’ nearly 200,000 workers, 40% of whom are members of a racial minority, Schultz dismissed the notion that race was too hot a topic business-wise for Starbucks to tackle.
“I reject that. I reject that completely,” he said in the video address. “It’s an emotional issue. But it is so vitally important to the country,” he continued, pointing to that the United States is “so much better” than what the current state of race relations portray it to be.
Fortune pointed out the obvious downside of allowing self-righteous twenty-somethings the ability to lecture customers who just came in for coffee. Arguments will break out and service will slow the fuck down as urban elves fight over whether Michael Brown had his hands up or not.
In my opinion, this is a hilarious move that will definitely backfire for Starbucks and urban elves in general. There’s only so much lecturing White America can take on race–that’s why they try to avoid it as much as possible. The last place they want to hear about it is at their favorite multinational coffee chain. Instead of turning customers into SJWs, it will only drive them further away from the predominant narrative on race.
So the next time you find yourself stuck in the line at Starbucks, bring up the “Color of Crime” to your tattoed server and watch her face contort as she gets a real lesson on race in America.