Coffee Critics

Recently, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz launched a campaign called #RaceTogether with the hopes that it would create dialogue and discussion about race relations or the lack of it. In light of the events that have been occurring over the several months, it would seem like a noble task designed to get things moving in a positive direction. However, some have viewed this not as an altruistic endeavor, which could do that very thing, it has been criticized and even reviled by many patrons as being obtrusive, invasive, and counterproductive.

While I can understand that there are patrons who relish the convenience of being able to breeze into their local chain and quick grab their cup of java, and I can understand the uncomfortable nature of a barista being asked to engage or initiate such a push button topic in the middle of a flood of customers who may not be in the best of moods until they’ve internalized that caffeine fix; I can appreciate the endeavor because for better or worse, it is fostering what is necessary for any progress to happen: getting people talking.

It would be so easy to be blinded by your own ilk regarding discrimination and see it as being hypocritical of a company that as much as any other in the world has very little diversity among the corporate leadership; yet even if you take that position, how can you begin to bring light to those disparities, if you aren’t willing to speak about it?

I suppose for some people ignorance truly is bliss. Why rock the boat if it means that it could potentially make things more uncomfortable? Yet, can you get to a place of real comfort without approaching those areas of uneasiness?

Whatever you may make of what might be in the mind of Howard Schultz, no one can say that this is about profit. The risk to the company’s bottom line might take a hit for not being politically correct or socially neutral. Here is a leader in business who is using his modicum of influence to move America forward and get Americans to open up, think, and participate in actively finding a solution to what is ailing her. In the fast paced world in which we now find ourselves, here is a man who is saying, “Come back to the simplicity of sitting down to a hot cup of coffee with your neighbor and share your thoughts, ideas, hope, and dreams.”

We cannot as a nation move to the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s Dream of being “not judged for the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” until we are willing to not ignore the giant pink elephant that no one is willing to admit exists. Ignoring it will not change things. Mocking or denigrating the endeavor of Howard Schultz will not help things. Only a concerted effort to be willing to press the issues and push the buttons that will open the doors to resolution will do that.


QUESTION: Are you merely a coffee critic or do you see yourself as able to contribute to the healing of a nation?


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