Ok, this is hilarious. Are you ready for this? As I write this very sentence, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, sipping on some Starbucks coffee and enjoying the cozy Starbucks atmosphere and free Starbucks wi-fi. In fact, just moments ago, I whipped out my iPhone, snapped a photo of my Venti iced caramel macchiato and posted it to my Instagram like some sort of trendy hipster wannabe. (Seriously, I’m the coolest person I know.) So, this post will either make me the biggest hypocrite ever or, more truthfully, it will show that just because I disagree with a company’s asinine corporate decisions doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy their product.
As you may have heard, Starbucks is currently facing an onslaught of criticism over their recent “Race Together” campaign — one which CEO Howard Schultz says is meant to promote awareness about racial issues and, get this, spark conversations between baristas and patrons about those racial issues. (You can read more about it here.) Apparently, if your barista hands you your coffee in a cup that has the words “Race Together” on it, you should prepare yourself for an awkward conversation — maybe a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” sort of conversation. Thank God those words were not scrawled across the side of my cup today. Just my name. Which was barely legible. I’m thinking about writing a letter to corporate about that.
Anyway, let me see if I have this right: The largest and most popular coffee franchise in the world has decided to “join the conversation” on race and they’re encouraging their baristas, at 12,000 locations across the country, to talk with customers about race problems in America. I can’t even believe I’m having to write those words. I mean, seriously, how are Starbucks employees even going to broach such a discussion? Maybe something like, “Hey, I noticed you ordered a black coffee today. Speaking of black…” or “You know what’s just as white as your vanilla bean frappuccino?…White privilege.”
This has to be one of the dumbest corporate moves I’ve ever seen. Of course, Starbucks says they’re simply trying to bring us all together. Peace, love and harmony for everyone! Now, while I’m brewing your coffee, let’s talk about racism!
Yeah, that’s really going to bring people together. Chatting about Obama, Ferguson or Trayvon Martin while sipping on your white vanilla bean frappuccino just doesn’t seem like the best way to overcome racial adversity, dissension and divisiveness in America. It actually seems like a great way to start a fight at a local coffee shop.
When it comes to sparking those racial conversations, the baristas have been encouraged to ask things like: “When was the last time you visited the home of someone of a different race?” and even “How have your racial views evolved from those of your parents?…Oh and by the way would you like a lemon square with that?”
“Sorry, ma’am, but I’m really just here to buy coffee. Also, I really don’t see how my personal views on race in America are really any of your business or concern. Or how it even relates to coffee. To be frank, this is really kind of stupid. I’m sure the 12 people in line behind me would prefer that we not have a full-blown discussion about this. In fact, I’m late for work anyway. Now, if you’d be so kind, I’ll just take my white privilege coffee and be on my way. Oh, and yes to the lemon square.”
Interestingly, the baristas are only supposed to engage in conversation if the customer asks about the “Race Together” label on the coffee cup. I’ll make a mental note to never ask about that label. I really have no desire to discuss racism with a twenty-something barista who's just trying to get through her shift so she can tackle a mountain of homework or go to her second job.
I'm all for healthy discussions on race relations in America. I'm all for improving those relations. (Let's start by getting rid of President Obama.) But honestly, I'm baffled by this whole thing. What does Starbucks really think they’re accomplishing with this sort of campaign? Do they truly believe that this is helpful? I mean, think about it: The United States of America is the most racially diverse country to ever exist on planet Earth. We’ve survived and gotten along fairly well (though not perfectly) for almost 240 years! And yet, a coffee franchise think it’s necessary to ignite a nationwide discussion about race in America? I just don’t get it.
It’s bad enough that a 20 oz. cuppa joe is almost six bucks. It’s bad enough that you can’t even write my name legibly. It’s bad enough that your bathrooms are only big enough for one person. But now, you want to bloviate about racism or chat about white privilege while I wait on my Cinnamon Dolce Latte?
Thanks, but I’ll take my coffee without the shot of racial discussion. That's optional, right?
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