A Whole Lot of Talk

Starbucks’ controversial “Race Together” campaign launched this week, causing an explosion of ridicule on social media. The launch even resulted in Corey duBrowa, the company’s senior vice president of communications, deleting his Twitter account Tuesday for a period of time because he felt “personally attacked.” So let me get this straight, Starbucks: You launch a campaign to get your customers to start talking about race. They do. And in response your senior vice president of communications deletes his Twitter account. Is that how to lead by example?

 

You got everyone talking, so listen to what they have to say. There are some accusations on Twitter that this was a publicity stunt by the company, which I don’t think is the case, but turning your back on the conversation didn’t do much to help that perspective. Let’s ignore the fact that the company started this campaign off on the wrong foot and that it has been mocked the center of ridicule on social media.

The issue of race in this country is a conversation that needs to be had, but I just don’t think the local barista should have the weight of that topic on her or his shoulders. Sure, everyone has their own life experiences to share, but does that make baristas experts on or mediators for a race discussion? What happens when the conversation goes from sharing experiences to heated arguments? It could be dangerous and lead to a very uncomfortable situation.

I don’t drink Starbucks’ coffee, but if the coffee shop I stop in every morning wanted to broach the issue of race in this country I think I would have done a double take to make sure I heard them right. Some say it is not corporate America’s place to get involved in social issues, but maybe if Starbucks spent more time developing the campaign to address concerns like the ones above, the result could have been a lot different. It certainly got people talking, just not necessarily how the company expected.

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