Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz weighed in on U.S. race relations this week, with full-page ads in major newspapers asking “Shall We Overcome?” at center page, then the hashtaggable “RaceTogether” and the Starbucks logo at the bottom.
Starbucks baristas were asked to jot “Race Together” on the coffee cups they handed customers, to initiate a dialog on race relations.
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Needless to say, like all delusional efforts on the part of rich white folks to stir things up for the rest of America, this bus left the station with all tires punctured (hey, I spent half an hour looking for a coffee related metaphor here, OK?).
The chief complaint, from the media as well as from anyone who ever stood on line at one of Mr. Schultz’s fine establishments, was that a campaign on race relations did not belong in a place where people mostly want to get their freaking coffee and get the hell out.
“Our intent is to try to elevate the national conversation, ” Schultz told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Seattle on Wednesday. “Because we’re willing to jump into the deep end of the pool … I think others will follow us.”
“Not sure what @Starbucks was thinking. I don’t have time to explain 400 years of oppression to you & still make my train. #RaceTogether, ” @ReignOfApril tweeted.
“I will be wary of these conversations and would prefer that Starbucks not continue the program or revamp it significantly, ” she said.
The Schultz drive resulted in a new, far more imaginative and critical hashtag: #NewStarbucksDrinks:
It’s a bit warm, so I’ll have an iced white privilege mocha. Heavy on the whip.
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Chai.
You’re cute for a dark roast girl.
“I’m sorry we don’t carry black tea. Only African American tea.”
Some of My Best Friends Are Black Coffee.
“I feared for my safe-Tea.”
Latte from a Birmingham Jail.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Biscotti When a Latte is Not Enuf.
What About Black On Black Tea?
Starbucks Senior Vice President of Global Communications Corey duBrowa said in a post on Medium.com that he temporarily deactivated his Twitter account because he was feeling “personally attacked in a cascade of negativity” by these and other responses by Americans refusing to buy what Schultz was selling.
Undeterred, Schultz said Starbucks is moving forward: an eight-page insert in the USA Today newspaper on Friday will ask readers questions to start conversations on race.
One question will be: How many friends of a different race do you have?
On that point, Colorlines’ reporter Aura Bogado told VICE News she tried to talk to Starbucks about race relations at Starbucks.
“They have not responded to me at all, ” Bogado said.
She was going to wanted to ask Starbucks about racial and pay diversity, from executive levels down to the coffee counter employees. But since the company would not respond to her inquiries, Bogado dug up the data herself:
16 percent of the Starbucks’ top executives are people of color.
40 percent of Starbucks’ hourly workers are people of color.
About 65 percent of Starbucks’ hourly workers are women.
On average, a Starbucks counter person makes $20 thousand a year.
At $21 million per year, Schultz himself $20, 000 every 2 hours.
It’s all you needed to know.