After just one week, Starbucks employees will stop writing “Race Together” on your coffee cups.
CEO Howard Schultz ended the effort Sunday, after days of pushback against the company’s initiative to start a conversation about race within its more than 20,000 stores. Other parts of the year-long Race Together program will continue, including forum discussions and special sections in USA Today. But the scribbling of a somewhat-ambiguous message on lattes has been quickly phased out.
“While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz said in a memo.
The message was meant to be “just the catalyst” for a broad conversation about race, after a year in which the topic has figured prominently in news headlines and dinner-table conversations across America.
Instead, the announcement of Race Together was a conversation about Starbucks. Was the coffee giant exploiting a very real issue for financial gain? Did you know that 16 of the company’s 19 executives are white? What jokes can we make about this on Twitter?
Really mad at this Starbucks employee who wrote #RaceTogether on my croissant.
— Julius Sharpe (@juliussharpe) March 20, 2015
Starbucks #RaceTogether is actually useful — as a demonstration of what’s wrong with the way US employers treat their workers.
— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 20, 2015
A Starbucks spokesperson said the Race Together inscriptions were not canceled but instead concluded today “as originally planned.” The move will also have practical implications: As journalists went to Starbucks to try out talking about race, they quickly realized that making conversation with a barista really holds up the line.