A couple of years ago, Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A got in trouble for condemning same-sex marriage, which triggered a boycott of his fast-food chain. In 2013, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey called Obamacare a form of ‘fascism,’ driving liberals from his high-end grocery stores.
Now Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has stepped in it by encouraging baristas to engage their customers in a conversation about race, while they’re making lattes and pouring coffees. That’s right. Watch out! Next time you stagger into a Starbucks on your way to the office, dying for the day’s first cup of Joe, you could be met with a question from the pimply teenager behind the counter: ‘How are you doing with that black thing? Or white thing? Or brown thing? Let’s talk about it.’
Well, yes, race relations are still a serious problem in this country. We were reminded of that recently in Ferguson, Cleveland, and Madison. And, as President Obama has suggested, we should, in fact, have a national conversation about race. But is Starbucks really the place to have it? And are young baristas really the ones to lead it?
The much bigger question is: A barista may know how to make a good latte, but what does he or she know about race relations in the first place? What kind of training do they have to lead a conversation about race? Do black baristas only talk to black customers, and whites only to whites? Did Howard Schultz think about any of this before launching his campaign with full-page ads in USA Today and The New York Times?
Personally, I want my latte. I want a quiet place to sit and read the paper or check emails. The last thing I want is somebody telling me: ‘I can’t help but notice you’re white. Did your ancestors ever own slaves?’
To his credit, after finally admitting he was wrong, Dan Cathy said he was going to shut up and sell chicken. John Mackey stopped attacking Obamacare and focused on selling groceries.
And Howard Schultz should shut up and just sell coffee.