Viewpoint

Race and ... baristas?

From an editorial Wednesday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Buying a cup of coffee is getting risky for introverts. Last month, McDonald’s asked random customers to hug strangers or blow kisses to get their orders for free. Now, Starbucks baristas are writing “Race Together” on their biodegradable cups and engaging customers in conversations about race.

It’s the Seattle-based chain’s latest effort to solve the world’s ills, this time racial tension at home. However well-intentioned, it seems destined for death by tweet, as social media responded with gleeful derision: “Some of my friends are black coffee” and “Despite our differences, left or right, black or white, can we agree this Starbucks race talk idea is really stupid?” The main problem is that eliminating bias is too big an order for small talk.

Starbucks unveiled the program with full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today that asked “Shall we overcome?” on a stark black background. Starbucks employees have been talking about race since December, when CEO Howard Schultz launched forums on the subject at stores around the country.

Internal forums may be useful within Starbucks, which has nearly 12,000 locations in the United States. But such conversations are too important to have awkwardly while waiting for a cuppa joe.

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