Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign may not have been the best idea. The campaign, according to the Chicago Tribune, apparently encouraged baristas to broach the delicate subject of race relations with Starbucks customers at the counter. Now, some are saying that they’re receiving a race relations “reality check” with their coffee orders, and that’s making the backlash worse. The “reality check” ended up on Twitter, and it is pretty bad, giving talking points to customers to use with family and friends:
Young Conservatives got hold of the checklist, and of course, blasted liberals for this. How typical. Even worse, though, is that the writer, Michael Cantrell, said:
This is just one more attempt by race baiting liberals to make white people feel guilty because of the color of their skin–something none of us has control over by the way–and quite frankly I’m getting tired of it.
Here’s the thing. Race relations are never going to improve until we stop obsessing about skin color. This is 2015. Who cares what color you are? I don’t. What I care about is a person’s character.
That last part is a very noble sentiment, but one has to ask Mr. Cantrell if, all things are otherwise equal, he’d hire someone with a white-sounding name over a black-sounding name, just out of some subconscious belief that the white-sounding person must be a better fit. There are other questions we could ask Mr. Cantrell, too, about this.
While Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO and the “brains” behind this incredibly tone-deaf campaign, is liberal enough to have asked people not to carry guns in his stores and endorse Obama for his second term, he’s also not always especially smart about how he inserts himself into political and social controversy. When it comes to race relations, Schultz presides over an executive team that’s overwhelmingly white, according to the Washington Post, but 40 percent of Starbucks’ baristas are minorities.
In short, he’s approaching this from the position of a rich, white man, and asking his minority baristas to also approach it that way. Well-thought out? Not exactly.
Young Conservatives, and conservatives in general, consider liberals to be “race-baiting” because we’re trying to keep the conversation going. Despite Schultz’ tone-deaf approach to this, not talking at all won’t make racism go away, but conservatives keep insisting that’s the solution. That doesn’t work, and won’t work. The truth is, they want to stop talking about race because it makes them uncomfortable.
Mr. Cantrell went on to say:
There are wonderful people of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and I have friends all across the spectrum, but you know what, I don’t really think about whether or not I should have x amount of black friends or x amount of Hispanic friends. I just want to surround myself with good people, regardless of race.
Stuff like this quiz and this campaign are what is dividing America more than ever. Let’s stop looking at color and just live as neighbors and friends. Is that too much to ask?
The uncomfortable conversations are the ones we need to have. Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign may be tone-deaf, and it may be ill-advised, and isn’t helping at all, but the conversation itself needs to keep going. But people like Mr. Cantrell here aren’t helping either, because what they want to do is sweep the experiences that racial and ethnic minorities have away, and pretend everyone’s experiences are the same. That, they believe, will make racism go away. Let’s whitewash everyone, including their personal experiences and life stories, and we’ll all be fine. Not.
Perhaps someday, if we do manage to overcome ingrained racism, then everyone’s experiences will become similar as we’re all treated like we’re just humans. But that’s nowhere near the case right now, and that future means getting rid of classism, too. It’s not up to us white people to say, “Race doesn’t matter, so stop talking like it does.” It’s up to us white people to open our eyes, ears and hearts in meaningful ways.
Featured image via Twitter