Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Race Together

Wanted to report an intense, slightly acrimonious discussion I had this weekend with some old friends about the now aborted Starbucks 'Race Together' Initiative. One, an unabashed conservative viewed it as liberal "social engineering". As he put it, "No thanks. Shut up and serve me my coffee without any political messages. Or I will patronize another establishment. I don't want "education" with my coffee -- are you f-ing kidding me that a 20-something millennial generation barista is going to teach me, a 50 year old man with way more knowledge and life experience, about race relations? They haven't even lived yet." So I suggested without any sarcasm for him to go ahead and get a cup at Walmart when buying ammo for his considerable gun cache. Another friend viewed it as simply an effective marketing campaign, to which I only half acquiesced.

I take Schultz at his word and thought it was basically a good idea, for however as long as it was meant to last, because to have this conversation is better than to remain silent or complacent about the civil rights movement. That's right, the civil rights movement didn't end in the 60s. It is still a work in progress. So I was disappointed that Starbucks  caved into what I thought was superficial, reactionary criticism about the Initiative. For my part I argued to the group that what we should be talking together about today -- and what better place to do so than a coffee shop? -- is not only racism, which still exists throughout our land, from Main Street to Congress, but more importantly basic human rights, which means greater socio-economic justice and equality for all people, regardless of what they look like or where they come from or who they love or what they believe. I also made the point that retail and the media is chock full of politics, so before you get all bent out of shape about getting a gentle message on your tall latte, think e.g. about how often you've been asked to support our troops at 7 eleven or the ballpark.