Starting today, Starbucks will no longer write “Race Together” on their customers’ cups in what they said was a planned phase out of their "visible" campaign to discuss race relations in America. The coffee chain said their attempt at healing the racial wounds of America would continue, and that they’re “leaning into it hard."
Starbucks baristas will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups starting Sunday, ending as planned a visible component of the company's diversity and racial inequality campaign that had sparked widespread criticism in the week since it took effect.
The coffee chain's initiative will continue more broadly without the handwritten messages, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said.
The cups were always "just the catalyst" for a larger conversation, and Starbucks will still hold forum discussions, co-produce special sections in USA TODAY and put more stores in minority communities as part of the Race Together initiative, according to a company memo from CEO Howard Schultz said.
The campaign has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as national protests over police killings of black males. Others questioned whether Starbucks workers could spark productive conversations about race while serving drinks.
The phase-out is not a reaction to that pushback, Olson said. "Nothing is changing. It's all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned."
He echoed the company memo, saying of the Race Together initiative, "We're leaning into it hard."
The campaign’s backlash has also met with mockery and hostility. Corey duBrowa, the senior vice president of communications at Starbucks, described "his life becoming a nightmare," deactivating his Twitter account last week. He’s since returned, but blocked a few users, which comes to no one’s surprise. Business Insider reported that his return to Twitter has been met with mixed emotions.
Regardless, I think many Starbucks customers have made their voices known with this haphazard campaign: they want their coffee without being harassed about race. Starbucks is a coffee chain, not a college classroom. It should stay that way.