#RaceTogether: My Take on Starbucks and Social Responsibility

Courtesy of Fortune.com
Courtesy of Fortune.com

Let me first say that I don’t think I’ve seen such a unanimous outcry against a company’s decision in a long, LONG time.  In case you somehow haven’t heard, Starbucks promoted the idea to have baristas mark customers cups with a sticker or to write #RaceTogether in an effort to start a conversation of race relations and the burden of racism in our communities.  That’s where I will stop.  I’m not here to join the chorus against Starbucks for this campaign (which apparently has ceased due to the public’s response).  There are literally hundreds of articles online about it so feel free to look them up if you want.  Instead, I’m looking at this through the lens of social responsibility.

There is obviously a ton that can be said about this, and I don’t have the time or energy at the moment to go too in depth; but before we all go on with our lives as Starbucks removes the campaign from it’s stores we should ask ourselves this question,

Who’s Responsible for our Culture and Attitudes?

We are.  Now that sounds obvious, but apparently it isn’t.  During the height of the crazy year in Ferguson, MO protestors rioted and defaced/destroyed businesses and homes in “solidarity” over the killing of an unarmed teenager by a police officer during a controversial confrontation last summer.  In response, the White House and the Justice Department got involved, and from the outside it seemed like they stoked the coals and fanned the flames of racial tension in the country at large, but in Ferguson in particular.

So my question became, Why is it that we as a nation have accepted that it is somehow the federal government’s responsibility to lead the discussion of race in particular cities?  I mean clearly things got worse when Washington got involved, as it tends to.  Shouldn’t that be a dialogue that, if needed, ought to be conducted at the local level?  And why do we rely on the government to fix this evident problem for us?  Where are the cooler heads in our communities?

In relation to Starbucks and the Race Together campaign, I would say this one thing.  At least this company, flawed as all companies are, is trying to help (even if it wasn’t well received).  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a coffee shop is the best spot to host this conversation (though it could be if conducted well).  Truthfully, it has to begin as we wrestle with our own hearts.  Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Islanders, Jews, Arabs, etc all need to honestly search their own lives and ask God the Holy Spirit to mend past hurts and inherited prejudices so the we can love other races the way that He does.  And if He is leading us into conversations on the topic, we should tread lightly and prayerfully so that others may hear the truth that we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God.

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