A few years ago, when we were struggling through a shutdown that impacted a whopping 2% of government services, Starbucks Barista-in-Chief Howard Schultz, whose management of the coffee company is just slightly better than his management of the Seattle Supersonics, decided that the time had come to use Starbucks’s most powerful weapon – writing the occasionally misspelled phrase on a paper cup – to bridge the partisan debate.
In a move that convinced absolutely nobody to embrace a bipartisan solution to the shutdown crisis, Starbucks baristas across DC began writing “Come Together” on cups of coffee dispensed to Congressmen and their staffs. It quickly became a running gag, and Starbucks has since taken a hiatus from interfering in the day to day lives of everyday Americans whose names they often can’t even pronounce correctly.
Until now. Now, they’re taking their coffee-marking scheme nationwide in a bid to encourage the legions of white liberals who pay $5 per cup for subpar espresso drinks to improve race relations, by scrawling “Race Together” on their cups.
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…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.
Look. I’m all for encouraging everyday Americans to get to know the people who make their coffee. It can lead to a vast improvement in quality and experience, and it could, if done right, lead to a comraderie that makes everyone’s lives better, especially the poor baristas who suffer the brunt of everyone’s week-long case of “The Mondays.” But I’m not entirely sure forcing a conversation about one of America’s most controversial topics, at a time when peoples’ emotions are running particularly high, is the way to do it.
In my mind, all this will do is confuse well-meaning Starbucks patrons who just wanted a cup of coffee and not a lecture on the historical significance of police action in minority communities, or the various Constitutional failings of the Ferguson police department. People get coffee because they need to escape the four walls of their offices; they certainly aren’t looking for a high-level roundtable discussion on current events. And while I suppose this might give some of Starbucks’s grad student employees a chance to use that hundred-thousand-dollar liberal arts education they paid for, I can’t see it making a lot of people happy with their in-store experience. I do see it making for some interesting YouTube content, though.
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