March 18, 2015

We Can No Longer Talk About Race in a Coffee Shop

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz embarked on an idea that’s too late for its time. The age when coffee shop patrons could openly talk about race with a stranger is long past. Over the weekend, the company that serves up over-roasted bean announced it was launching a campaign to have its baristas start a conversation about race by writing the phrase “Race Together” on the sides of its cups. Furthermore, Starbucks announced it would partner with USA Today to produce a pamphlet that prompts coffee guzzlers to start thinking more about race. For example, one question asks, “How have your racial views evolved from those of your parents?” And another fill-in-the-blank question says, “I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.” Schultz’s idea is an old one that goes back to the beginning of coffee shops, when they were used by intellectuals in the Enlightenment as a forum to brew and filter ideas. But that was before coffee shops had drive-through windows and primarily served as a fueling station for overworked brains. Now, Starbucks is trying to distill the conversation about race down to two words, and that turns into a clumsy message that even liberal rag Think Progress opposes. More…

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