Starbucks is a national joke: Why its #RaceTogether campaign is so “self-righteous”
Elias Isquith, Salon, March 19, 2015
As you probably know by now, Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of the phenomenally successful Starbucks Corp., thinks it’s about time you and your favorite barista got serious and solved this whole racism thing once and for all. Actually, that’s not quite fair; because according to Starbucks’ official release about the initiative, which they’re calling “Race Together” (or #RaceTogether, if you’re on Twitter), the point is not to fix racism but rather to “create a more empathetic and inclusive society – one conversation at a time.” Whatever that means.
In the grand scheme of things, of course, Starbucks’ weird new publicity stunt isn’t such a big deal — in fact, it’s not even the first time they’ve done something like this (remember “#ComeTogether“?). Nevertheless, Starbucks is one of the defining brands and aesthetics of our time, so it struck us as worthwhile to see if we couldn’t tease out some greater meaning from the silliness. So earlier this week, we got University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed — who recently penned a much-discussed essay for Harper’s about the hollowness of the contemporary American left — on the phone to talk about #RaceTogether and what it might tell us about how the American mainstream thinks about race issues today. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.