LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The world’s most famous coffee shop is looking to stir up conversation about race relations.
KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Starbucks has launched its controversial Race Together initiative that encourages its employees to talk about racism with customers.
Since launching Race Together in December, more than 2,000 Starbucks employees have expressed their position on racial issues at open forums held in Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, New York and Chicago, according to the company.
In an effort to draw customers to the conversation, baristas in L.A. and other cities were the forums have been held have voluntarily begun writing “Race Together” on Starbucks cups, an effort that is set to expand to all stores across the U.S.
“We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America,” Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said. “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”
Employees are also being encouraged to engage customers in conversation through special Race Together stickers available in select stores, according to the company’s website.
The initiative has been met with some support – along with at least as much ridicule – on social media, where many customers have asked the simple question: “Why?”
Joe Hicks, Vice President of “Community Advocates” and a former head of the L.A. City Human Relations Commission, said he thinks the backlash is “well deserved”.
“You don’t want some phrase on a coffee cup or, for God’s sake, having your barista chattin’ you up about, ‘Well, how do you feel about race relations?’,” said Hicks. “Completely improper, and I think the backlash is, frankly, spot on.”
Despite the negative feedback, Starbucks officials say they have no plans of scaling back the initiative.