Starbucks and USA Today Team Up to Tackle Race

Backlash heats up via social media---with some in support and others calling it an utter nightmare

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

According to reports, Starbucks has teamed up with USA Today to tackle racism in the workplace.

The CEO of the company, Howard Schultz, has encouraged baristas at 12,000 Starbucks locations nationwide to engage in customer conversation on the topic of race by writing the words “Race Together” on cups. Also, a special “Race Together” newspaper supplement will be included in USA Today. There are hopes that these efforts will create ice breakers for sparking conversation between staff and customers on racism in America.

“Racial diversity is the story of America, our triumphs as well as our faults,” says the opening letter to the eight-page supplement and conversation guide, according to reports. “Yet racial inequality is not a topic we readily discuss. It’s time to start.”

[Below: WATCH Reactions Vary on Starbucks ‘Race Together’ Campaign, from Support to Utter Disgust]

This effort came after Schultz held an impromptu meeting at the company’s Seattle headquarters, with a headlining topic of “Racial Tension in America,” where Starbucks’ employees, varying in age, race and ethnicity, told their personal stories.

[Related: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Pens Open Letter About Race, Ferguson And Injustice]

“They were emotional, heartbreaking, but the trust that partners have had in a safe environment to share their stories and be vulnerable has been incredible and inspiring,” he said in the video message.

Since then, more than 2,000 Starbucks employees have discussed racial issues at open forums in Oakland, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and New York City.

Schultz, who is known for advocating for and adopting business practices that are socially conscious, has also been known to put his money and resources behind advocating for diversity and inclusion, having landmark deals with business moguls including Earvin “Magic” Johnson to bring the chain—along with job opportunities—to urban communities, creating initiatives including the Black Partner Network, and partnering with organizations and companies including Catalyst Inc., The Multicultural Food and Hospitality Association and the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Reactions to Starbucks and USA Today’s efforts were mixed, especially on social media, ranging from support for what some see as a step—even if small—in the right direction, to confusion as to the effectiveness of the message and how conversations will be sparked, to concerns about whether baristas are equipped take on the touchy subject with customers to outright opposition in terms of it being a branding and socially experimental nightmare. There were even reports of Corey duBrowa, Starbucks SVP of Gloal Communications, being personally attacked on social resulting in his brief deactivation of his account.

Black Enterprise SVP and Chief Content Officer Alfred Edmond Jr. talked about the implications of these efforts on HuffPostLive. Check it out below:

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