In what was probably a well-intentioned move, Starbucks has announced a new “Race Together” initiative to get their customers discussing the effects of racism. You know, because that’s a conversation everyone wants to have before their morning coffee. The coffee giant’s new enterprise encourages baristas to write the slogan “Race Together” on coffee cups and hand them out to unsuspecting and not-yet-caffeinated customers, before beginning a discussion on race relations. In a statement released this morning, Starbucks describes the campaign as “the first installment in a year-long effort designed to stimulate conversation, compassion and positive action regarding race in America.” Some noted their skepticism on social media.
Critics are accusing Starbucks of trying to capitalize on the heightened visibility of race issues in recent months. It also doesn’t look good that a top Starbucks’ executive deleted his Twitter account today, apparently over criticism about the campaign. A cached version of his account shows him promoting the hashtag #RaceTogether in his last tweet. While Starbucks may be right that “conversation has the power to change hearts and minds,” we're going to go out on a limb and say perhaps the place to have that conversation isn’t across a counter in the early morning hours. At least not without a coffee first.