But with more than a conversation.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks garnered a significant backlash when he partnered with Larry Kramer, publisher and president of USA Today to launch #RaceTogether, a conversation on race while picking up your favorite latte at his storefronts. The backlash was swift and severe. Social media tore this idea to pieces in a matter of minutes. Honestly, I completely understand the sentiments behind the push back. Many felt it was a disingenuous attempt and trivialized the gravity of racism in this country.
In my opinion, Howard Schultz’s heart was in the right place but the mechanics of how this program would be most effective was not completely thought out. I mean, how were the baristas going to be able to handle taking coffee orders, making the orders swiftly and manage to have a quick conversation on race? Typically, people are coming in to grab their favorite coffee drink and in a rush to get to work or their next meeting. They aren’t lingering around for deep conversations.
This current election cycle coupled with the continuous bombardment of black people being killed by the police has ripped off the scab of racism and all of its ugliness is oozing all over us like nasty smelly yellow puss. Yes, I know. Kind of graphic but this is how I feel every time I hear the vile racially (and sexist, xenophobic…) charged things that come out of #ThatMan’s (Donald Trump) mouth…like I need a scalding shower and use a Brillo steel pad to cleanse myself afterwards! It’s disgusting, maddening and dispiriting all at once.
What’s even more disturbing is the #basketofdeplorables. His fans who support him and attend his rallies spew some of the most vitriolic statements and co-sign his racially charged language. His candidacy has been the most divisive I have witnessed…it is akin to George Wallace (and I wasn’t around for his bid for the presidency). But at least George Wallace was a governor (sad but true). #ThatMan’s fans are voting for him even though he’s clearly a racist and is unqualified to serve. He has yet to sincerely disavow any of the racist people or organizations who have outwardly supported him…instead he brags about bringing back law and order and how black folks live in the ghettos. He calls his black supporters thugs…cause he really doesn’t fool with black folks for real. He even harkens the good old days by encourages his supporters who attend his rallies to bring harm towards protestors.
Ok. I digress. Back to my original point. Since #ThatMan has unearthed our country’s ugliest secret we need to re-visit the idea or at least the sentiment of what Howard Schultz wanted to do with #RaceTogether. This election cycle proves we must have open and honest conversations about Race in America. White people must own up to the history of this country…honoring and respecting the fact that without tortured, stolen labor, America wouldn’t be one of the richest countries in the world. Simply put, America would not be an economic powerhouse without the institution of slavery. Let’s own our history and be honest about it. We have failed to have an open and honest dialogue about slavery and what it has done to African Americans – we are uprooted, with no deep appreciation of where we come from and how we are connected.
After we begin “the conversation” we must begin to put forward real plans, policies and legislation to dismantle this inherently racist system. The judicial system, the housing system, the financial system, the educational system…the entire system that America is built was never made with African Americans in mind. We were never meant to be an equal part of this country’s fabric. But we are and without us America wouldn’t be great! This country hasn’t been great to us and has yet to repay its debt owed for the blood, sweat, tears and death to create this economic icon, called the United States of America.
Howard Schultz was right. We needed #RaceTogether. And while it isn’t a solution, as he said “it is an opportunity to begin to re-examine how we can create a more empathetic and inclusive society – one conversation at a time.” Bring back #RaceTogether and partner with national organizations that can help facilitate these conversations across all ethnicities. Bring together a coalition of moms and dads, business owners, lawmakers, financial institutions, community activists, civil rights leaders, educators and law enforcement to begin tackle systemic racism in this country. Work with colleges and universities that have Starbucks stores to partner with campus organizations to host #RaceTogether conversations. Developing strategic partnerships will allow for a more thoughtful, diverse approach in hosting these conversations. This, in part, will help lay the foundation to bring about the change we need and meet Mr. Schultz’s on creating a more empathetic and inclusive society – one conversation at a time. It is unfortunate, Starbucks received such stiff backlash after the launch of #RaceTogether in March of 2015 which subsequently shelved the external program. We didn’t realize how much we really needed it and now more than ever it is painfully obvious the conversations and much more are needed now.
#ThatMan and his fans have unapologetically exposed our country’s nastiness to the world. And for the sake of my child, for all of our children, we need #RaceTogether, a conversation starter, to come back stronger than ever to begin the healing process that will allow us to be #StrongerTogether and reveal to the world the essence of our greatness! Otherwise, we will be left with a horribly divided country strangled by our inability to admit and deal with the truth…racism is the foundation of who we are as country. Forever restricting us from becoming an inclusive country and living up to our values we espouse to others.