How to Talk About Race With Your Starbucks Barista: A Guide

Jia Tolentino

How to Talk About Race With Your Starbucks Barista: A Guide

First, ordering coffee from a chain store is an act that necessarily takes place under conditions—quick, perfunctory, corporately polite—that are exactly oppositional to the conditions necessary to talk about race. Second, if you’re gonna allude to Mike Brown and Eric Garner in the press release, it’s an interesting move to paint race in America as some sort of confusing, nebulous issue in which one must just wade in gently without pointing fingers. Ferguson, for one, is an American story with both blame and answers at the ready. What Schultz euphemistically calls “these issues in America” is the racial climate inevitable in a country that was founded on white supremacy, sustained by white supremacy, and is still dramatically marked by it today.

One thought on “How to Talk About Race With Your Starbucks Barista: A Guide

  1. Responses to the campaign, undertaken in partnership with USA Today, have been…somewhat skeptical. Okay, they’ve been scathing, brutal, merciless. Many agree that an informed conversation about race among employees of any company in America sounds eminently useful. But cornering customers en route to their morning Joe, and giving the responsibility of facilitating that conversation to young hipsters who may or may not have once taken a Black History course in college – not so much. Other glaring problems cited: Starbucks is infamous as a harbinger of a gentrification process that commonly drives out poor, often black residents, and a conglomerate that drives out small local coffee shops. Starbucks sells insanely over-priced, not Fair Trade products while paying pennies to Ethiopian farmers for the coffee beans to make them. Starbucks called the cops on Black Lives Matter events. Starbucks workers who make 10 bucks an hour tops have now been given the added duty of repairing our country’s historic race relations with no additional compensation. Starbucks’ management is almost entirely white. And while up to 40% of Starbucks store workers are reportedly people of color, the project launched with a big oops in the form of photos showing only white hands holding the sloganeered cups. Oh, and Starbucks burns their coffee, and what’s up with that?

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