In December, inspired by the state of race relations in the U.S. Starbucks CEO Howard Schutz announced the company would start conversations on race in America amongst Starbucks partners. His rational was that some of the problems that we are witnessing might be prevented through conversations.
In March, Starbucks announced that they would expand the scope of these discussions and encourage baristas to engage in conversations about and talk about #RaceTogether at Starbucks stores.
There were lots of mixed emotions on this initiative. Personally, I think that this initiative was born with all the best intentions. With that being said, when I get to get my venti iced mocha frappaccino, I don’t want to engage in a conversation- I’ve already waited 15 minutes and I would just like my drink. Conversations about race can get pretty heated- I’m not saying that Starbucks barristas can’t engage in insightful conversation, but if I were to talk about race with a stranger, it wouldn’t be my barrista. I think that there is a time and a place for everything. It makes sense to talk about race issues in our class, but I wouldn’t want to engage in conversations about our class topics with a server at a restaurant, with a cashier at a grocery store or when I am getting my hair done at the salon.
Less that a week after the announcement, Starbucks said that they would end the program. This comes after the company’s senior vice president of global communications deleted his Twitter account (then reactivated it), lots of social media trolling, and
I think Starbucks’ intentions were good. I think that the execution was good. But can the implementation of a program like this ever happen successfully- we might never know.