I love the Starbucks "Race Together" Campaign. It is messy, poorly conceived, and naive, but it seems to come from a sincere, if privileged and sheltered, place. This interview With Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, is soft, but fascinating, not just because of how direct he is about his motivations and how naive he sounds, but how loosely this massive companywide initiative is apparently structured. Edit: CNN has cut this interview from 12 minutes down to 3:30 and reposted it to the same link. This is too bad as longer interview shows that Schultz is really at sea with this thing.
I am not sure why so much wrath being directed at Schultz and Race Together. For me it is simply stunning to see a company like Starbucks, which gained its 70B valuation by managing its image and brand extremely carefully, engage this at all - especially through their retail counter help. I get tired of the "You're not doing right" argument. (Many of the criticisms have the ring of the hard-core fan of an indi band who gets upset when the rest of world discovers it.) Would I be happier if baristas had been asked to write: “white supremacy has always been the organizing principle of this country, discuss.” on the cups? Sure, but you have to start somewhere and the majority of people have never engaged this topic at all. Bringing mainstream white people into this this discussion is not going to be easy or pretty. For some people, good people with good intentions, just recognizing that the subject needs to be engaged is a big first step. They might not even be able to have a conversation, but having a company like Starbucks write "Race Together" on their coffee cup could feel really radical to them. I know from doing the interviews for WP that some people have NEVER EVER thought about this stuff. Maybe the old “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good” should be modified in this case to “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the weirdly conceived, admittedly problematic but strangely compelling.”