As of March 22, Starbucks baristas will no longer write the phrase “Race Together” on cups, but the popular coffee chain is determined in to keep their nationwide conversation about race afloat.
In a notice to employees, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks said the company had planned all along to phase out the writing of “Race Together”. He mentioned that it “was always just the catalyst for a much broader and longer term conversation” about racial inequality. Schultz went on to thank employees, recognizing it was no easy task to engage customers in such “difficult topics”.
Schulz is no stranger to controversial cups. In 2012 he instructed D.C. baristas to write “work together” on cups during the “fiscal Cliff” period. The CEO is an ardent speaker on issues of gun control and gay rights.
The response to Starbuck’s movement has suffered an overwhelming amount backlash on social media. From its inception, critics claimed the chain was using racial tension to sell their coffee. Schultz who has been outspoken on social issues before maintains his position that urging conversation about race is important and necessary.
“An issue as tough as racial and ethnic inequality requires risk-taking and tough-minded action,” Schultz wrote. “And let me reassure you that our conviction and commitment to the notion of equality and opportunity for all has never been stronger.”
Whether a bad PR move or an honest attempt at change, the reality is that Starbucks does have socially conscious policies and programs. They have instituted partnerships with local foundations to create job programs for “opportunity youth” or, young people, disproportionately males from minority groups, who are neither enrolled in school nor joined the workforce.
Coffee cups may return to normal, but Starbucks will still hold open forums for employees to discuss race. In an interview with CNN, Schultz said, “If we all continue to be bystanders on something that’s dividing the nation, then where is this headed? We are better than this as a country.”