WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 27: A Starbucks employee works behind the counter at Starbucks, on December 27, 2012 in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced Washington locations would serve coffee with the words 'come together' written on the cups intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the 'fiscal cliff.' (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sixty one year old Howard Schultz is the Chairman of the Board of Starbucks Coffee. He’s worth $2.5 billion according to the Forbes billionaires list.

His yearly salary is $ 21,775,001 — the extra dollar is a nice touch.

Schultz has built a very successful brand of coffee house franchises including one in Bozeman.

He partnered with Arizona State University to offer all his employees the chance to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree by paying the tuition for their free online classes.


In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, Schultz decided that race was an issue that should be discussed more widely and what better place to do it than over a cup of Starbucks.

So all his baristas were encouraged, not required, to write “#RaceTogether” on the customers cups and engage them in a conversation about race relations.

This is not the first time Schultz has asked employees to write a message on cups. See picture caption above.

Not sure you’ve ever been in a Starbucks. I have not. My only experience is airports when traveling for business.

There, everyone, and I do mean everyone, is in a hurry. They want their five dollar Mocha Grande Latte five minutes ago. I’m not sure how people would react to a conversation breaking out that slows the line to a crawl.

In slower times during the day it might work very well.

Political Backlash

What seemed like a good idea of interactive communication backfired heavily on Schultz. People just wanted their coffee and to get out, or go do whatever they planned to do after getting their coffee.

None of the races seemed inclined to open up about their feelings and some felt if they were confronted and voiced a questionable opinion it might make them appear racist.

We do live in a politically correct cocoon. Honest opinions are a thing of the past.

Common Ground

The problem with race discussions is the starting point. What do you ask? “What’s it like to be White, Asian, Hispanic, Black, or from Montana?” “I love rap music how about you?” “Don’t you hate those ISIS guys?” “Who’s your favorite NSCAR driver?”

Races are just that. A specific group of people that have societal issues to deal with based on their color and/or culture both real and imagined.

I can’t explain to you what it’s like to be a white Anglo-Saxon.

You like Kanye West I like Willie Nelson. How do we relate?

It’s like two entirely different languages. Do you really believe we can come together in a five-minute conversation buying a cup of coffee?

I really wish that were possible but there is potential for more division than collective understanding.

Some Final Thoughts

Howard Schultz’s thought process is in the right place. I can’t fault him for his goal, just his method.

Rodney King is famous for his historic remark, “Can’t we all just get along?” Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of racial equality and mutual respect among all races.

On the other hand we have Azealia Banks, black pop star/rapper, who recently posed for the March issue of Playboy.

Her thoughts in the Playboy comments, I hate everything about this country, fat white Americans…who are crunched into the middle of America, the real fat and meat of America, are these racist conservative white people who live on their farms.”

If would be nice if #RaceTogether would work, and work quickly, but there is a lot of work yet to do before Rodney King or Martin Luther King’s dreams comes true.