COMPANY CULTURE / MAR. 30, 2015
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Starbucks Encourages Employees to Engage in Racial Discussions

Overcoming the color of someone’s skin is what Starbucks hopes to accomplish someday—starting with its own workers.

In recent days, the coffee company has become a little vocal about America’s racial issues.

The espresso giant initiated a campaign called “Race Together,” which pushes employees to engage in racial conversations with its customers.

Starbucks says that its baristas should be comfortable discussing controversial topics related to social issues in the United States.

See Also: 5 Examples of Racism in the Workplace

C.E.O Howard Schultz made a statement on the company’s website explaining the main purpose behind Race Together. For starters, it’s "not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are."

In December 2014, the company’s headquarters held a gathering that involved 400 employees. The discussion allowed employees to freely express their feelings about racial matters in the workplace. It also brought forth some solutions to tackle racism in America.  

Based on the dialogue that transpired, it encouraged Schultz to face the controversial issue head on. 

Starbucks finally got the ball rolling this month by advertising the campaign in USA Today and The New York Times papers. One of the statements highlighted in the ads declared “When it comes to race we are all human.”

A Starbucks spokesperson told The Huffington Post in an email that the campaign wasn’t meant to heal the wounds caused by racial tension, but instead bring forth a common understanding among people of different ethnic groups.

"This was not about demanding change, but demonstrating a willingness to embrace change and begin to bridge the divide to empathy," said spokeswoman Linda Mills.

The campaign, which started on March 17, gave baristas the option of writing "Race Together" on the space that usually presents the creative misspelling of a customer’s name.

From there, the "call-out" invites the customer to a brief discussion covering racial topics.

Race Together received various responses from people of all different backgrounds.

TomoNews on YouTube secretly records several reluctant baristas views about Race Together:

"Black Twitter," however, was very outspoken about the Race Together program—given the fact that African American history had the most influence on the campaign.

One Twitter user @LibertarianSass sarcastically stated: "Hope now that Starbucks has begun its #RaceTogether campaign we’ll begin to take the issues of cream privilege & milk supremacy seriously."

Some commentators also made up new slogans with a Starbucks twist, such as: ""Black Lattes Matter" and "Police Brew-tali-Tea."

Another pointed out a very obvious flaw; there were no "coloured" hands used in the promotional images.

On March 22 the company quickly terminated the in-store campaign, but Mills confirms: "We realized that this is the beginning of a conversation and one we intend to continue as a company into the future."

See Also: How to Get Hired by Starbucks

Race Together is one of several initiatives Starbucks has created to show their stance on certain issues—including the 2012 public statement on supporting gay marriages and the 2013 banning of firearms in their establishments.

What are your views about this kind of initiative? Do you think it is just a PR stunt or a genuine effort by the company to combat racial tensions? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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