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Is It Racist? Starbucks Gives Up Trying To Solve America's 'Other' Great Divide

Just as The Fed folded this week on ending the nation's booming income inequality problem (by reinforcing the Yellen put for longer), so Starbucks has folded in its effort to fix the other growing divide in America - racism. Careful not to admit that it was due to pressure from the avalanche of less-than-positive social media reactions, AP reports Starbucks baristas will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups. "Nothing is changing," Starbucks claims it was all part "of the cadence" of the plan - hhmm. "Most people come to Starbucks for coffee," concludes one young African-American, adding "race is an uncomfortable thing to bring up, especially in a Starbucks."

 

As AP reports,

Starbucks baristas will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups starting Sunday, ending as planned a visible component of the company's diversity and racial inequality campaign that had sparked widespread criticism in the week since it took effect.

 

The coffee chain's initiative will continue more broadly without the handwritten messages, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said.

 

The cups were always "just the catalyst" for a larger conversation, and Starbucks will still hold forum discussions, co-produce special sections in USA TODAY and put more stores in minority communities as part of the Race Together initiative, according to a company memo from CEO Howard Schultz said.

 

The campaign has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as national protests over police killings of black males. Others questioned whether Starbucks workers could spark productive conversations about race while serving drinks.

 

The phase-out is not a reaction to that pushback, Olson said. "Nothing is changing. It's all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned."

 

He echoed the company memo, saying of the Race Together initiative, "We're leaning into it hard."

As one commentator noted, "I've not read a single positive Tweet or commentary on the @Starbucks #RaceTogether effort."

At a Starbucks in Pittsfield Township, Michigan, near Ann Arbor, two customers said on Sunday they didn't think a coffee shop was the right place for race relations dialogue.

 

Ninette Musili, a junior biomolecular science major at the University of Michigan, said the campaign seemed to her like an insincere publicity stunt that wasn't executed properly.

 

Like many who criticized Starbucks, she goes to the shops either before class or later in the day to study. At neither time does she want to discuss race relations.

 

"Most people come to Starbucks for coffee," said Musili, who is 19 and African-American. "Race is an uncomfortable thing to bring up, especially in a Starbucks."

 

She said such discussions are important, and that Starbucks should have set aside time during the evenings for race discussions and invited people to attend.

 

Another customer, Shane Mulholland, 46, of Ann Arbor, also said Starbucks isn't the venue to talk about race.

 

"They're here for coffee. They're not here to push their political agenda," he said. "I even contemplated not coming here because of it."

 

He said Starbucks should remain neutral on such topics because it's an established brand, rather than risk alienating customers. "There are other ways you can go about doing things to stimulate interest in what you're doing," said Mulholland, who is white and runs an edible mushroom-growing business. "They must be doing so well they don't have to worry about losing customers over that," he said.

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As Bloomberg concludes, suffice it to say that Starbucks' Race Together initiative has not yet solved the vexing problem of racism in America.