I was telling my husband that I’m going to stop watching the news. I probably make this declaration every week: “I’m not going to watch the news anymore!” He doesn’t even ask why I say this; he knows. I say it because there is only depressing events on the news. Killings, death, natural disasters, war, accidents, illness to name just a few. And the racial issues and problems in the U.S. have been headline news, too. Understandably, the killing of young men is news. There are a lot more categories of “bad news” items but I think that you get the picture. I want to see “good news” and, as an eternal optimist, I believe that good things happen in this world every day. Then, as the eternally introspective person that I am, I realized that I often fail to point the “good news.” Yes, I’m also guilty of focusing and highlighting the “bad news.”
Today, I am going to change this paradigm. I am going to discuss “good news”.
Starbucks’s recent “Race Together” campaign.
For those of you who have managed to avoid watching the news and who have not seen or stepped into a Starbucks lately, let me explain. Starbucks Founder and CEO Howard Schultz decided, as a result of recent “bad” events, to start a campaign that would allow the fine baristas at Starbucks to write, “race together” on the coffee cups. And they were encouraged to open a dialogue about racial issues with customers.
I had to stop and think about this campaign. And I had to do a bit more research into Howard Schultz.
I am marginally familiar with Mr. Schultz and, in fact, have read his book, Pour Your Heart into It, about his humble background and how he built Starbucks into the largest café chain in the world. Fascinating reading, really. But I was not familiar with his social activism. I discovered that he had initiated previous campaigns to support veterans and gender and marital equality. Wow!
Now he is boldly going where many Americans refuse to go: into the racial issues that continue to plague the United States. That’s bold. I like it.
Yes, I know that many people consider this to be a superficial move that is more of a public relations statement than a positive statement about race relations. Perhaps so. Perhaps not.
Race relations is one of those areas that people want to avoid. Politicians avoid it like smallpox (or more modernly, ebola). Racial issues are avoided at cocktail parties. (Believe me, I know!). Newscaster’s banter steers far away from issues of race. In short, people avoid—at all costs—talking about racial issues. These are just too sensitive. Most of the time, it is a lose-lose situation.
But Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says that it is time to stop avoiding this issue. Instead, we have to open the dialogue. Point out the elephant in the room. Say that the emperor has no clothes. Put the issue on the table. And put the issue on the coffee cups.
That’s bold. And I applaud Starbucks.
We can all take bold steps. It’s not terribly easy but it’s also not terribly difficult. Let’s examine what it takes to be bold and how we can be more like Starbucks.
How to be Starbuck bold:
Stand up for your beliefs—even when they are not popular.
Yes, it can make you feel uneasy to voice your beliefs and to know when is the right time to do so. The fear of criticism can make a person keep quiet while they are hearing something that makes them feel uncomfortable, like a racist or sexist statement or insult.
Remember that you have the right to your beliefs. Feel free to vocalize them. In fact, you don’t have to speak them; you can write them, sing them or find some other way to express them. And remember that people might challenge you. That’s okay. Actually, it’s good. But don’t let the fear of someone challenging your beliefs take away your right to state your beliefs.
Allow others to voice their beliefs.
This is the beauty of a democratic society! There are going to be different beliefs and ideologies. Listen to them. Debate them. Challenge them if you disagree. But remember that you have an equal right to your beliefs and that you should voice them as well.
Open a dialogue
This is what Starbucks was aiming to do: open up a discussion about the difficult and controversial issue of race. Nothing was meant to be decided. But it was initiated to make people think about their racial beliefs. This is a great idea. Although it can be difficult and emotions might flare and arguments might develop, it is important to have discussions about difficult issues. It can ease the confusion and tension. Dialogues are healthy. Silence is dangerous.
Point out the elephant in the room.
Sadly, the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign has come to an end. Even sadder is that it was relegated to being labeled as a “PR” campaign rather than a bold move to open the long overdue discussion about race in America. But Schultz is not finished. He is planning to expand Starbucks into more urban (modern term for “African American”) neighborhoods. And he has committed Starbucks to hiring 10,000 “opportunity youths” (modern term for unemployed Black youths) over the next three years. Again, it’s bold and I like it.
I hope that we all find ways to make bold moves that can improve our community, our country or even our world.
Bold is definitely needed on the menu right now.