The racial distress the country has experienced since the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has caused Seattle-based Starbucks to open many of its coffee shops to meaningful discussions on race in America.
The “Race Together” initiatives is to be outlined Wednesday at the Starbucks 2015 Annual Meeting of Shareholders in the Emerald City. Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive of Starbucks, didn’t want to be on the sidelines as the deaths of blacks at the hands of police in Oakland, Calif., Ferguson, New York City and Cleveland point raise the question of whether black lives do matter.
“Black Lives Matter” has been a rallying cry at many protests over police treatment of African Americans.
Schultz said, “We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America — not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers — but because staying silent is not who we are.”
The company has taken out full-page ads in national newspapers to promote the concept.
It’s a great idea, and there is no better place to have conversations on race relations in the United States than at the hundreds of Starbucks coffee shops nationwide. The high-end Starbucks stores are in many downtowns and tony suburbs in addition to being in many major cities all over the world.
Naturally, not everyone is happy about what Starbucks is doing. Just as there are haters over the country twice electing Barack Obama as the first black president, there are people who are upset that Starbucks is pushing a national conversation on race. But last I checked, this is still a free country, where people have a right to free speech.
Starbucks partners in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Oakland and Los Angeles are writing “Race Together” on Starbucks cups along with individual’s high end orders. All Starbucks stores throughout the Kansas City area need to get involved because problems of race are just as confounding and troubling in the heartland as anywhere else.
In addition, Schultz and Starbucks shareholders should open more Starbucks stores in black and Latino communities throughout the United States. Imagine what a message it would send if there were as many Starbucks coffee shops in black communities nationwide as there are liquor stores, check-cashing joints and dollar stores.
People of all colors going to black and Latino Starbucks would be more likely to frequent such coffee shops, and the conversations around race also would truly be richer.