We found that Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz’s #RaceTogether initiative to talk about America’s issues with race and discrimination a sincere move in wanting to join the conversation and incite positive change. But when he inducted the #RaceTogether campaign that asked of his baristas to write the hashtag on cups (in hopes of inspiring candid discourses), the effort was met with an unforeseen backlash and jokes online. In a personal letter from Schultz today, the CEO confirmed that writing #RaceTogether had been “completed” as of March 22, but that we’ll be seeing the movement beyond our Venti beverages.
Over the weekend, Schultz had felt so defeated and hurt by the social media response, that he momentarily shut down his Twitter account. Many weren’t as open to the idea as he had hoped. But “Race Together” will continue, just in other forms throughout the months and years to come.
“We have a number of planned Race Together activities in the weeks and months to come: more partner open forums, three more special sections co-produced with USA TODAY over the course of the next year, more open dialogue with police and community leaders in cities across our country, a continued focus on jobs and education for our nation’s young people plus our commitment to hire 10,000 opportunity youth over the next three years.”
So while that embarrassing chapter for the company is done, Starbucks is still aiming to make a difference! At a recent conference in front of important shareholders and in a huge auditorium, Mellody Hobson, the Black female Board of Directors at Starbucks, led the the latest Race Together discussion and stated that we “[couldn’t] afford to be color-blind” and that we start behaving “color-brave.” “Color-brave.” Sounds intriguing.
She then offered some examples of how to just in little we all could invite integration and change in our everyday lives. “If you’re a part of a hiring process, or admission process, you can be color brave. If you are someone putting together a brainstorming session for school or work, you can be color-brave. If you are sitting with a group of people at a table and you notice that everyone looks like you, you can stand up and be color-brave.”
We still believe that at least Starbucks is trying! How many other CEOs are tackling racism or uncomfortable topics head on?