Shortly after announcing the #RaceTogether initiative, Starbucks announced the end of the promotion in the midst of a massive Twitter backlash that resulted in VP of Communications Corey duBrowa deleting his Twitter account. The #RaceToghether initiative had baristas either write “Race Together” or place stickers on customer coffee cups and attempt to engage in dialogue about race in America. with customers The idea was met with seemingly universal disapproval as the public questioned the propriety, motivation and ability of the coffee giant to attempt to highlight such a controversial topic. Starbucks claims that Sunday’s ending was pre-scheduled.
— USAFmedicVET (@USAFmedicVET) March 23, 2015
— The Grapevine (@TheGrapevineTV) March 23, 2015
— Karl Rimkus (@karlrimkus) March 23, 2015
#RaceTogether What a dumb idea! Get out of my way when I want a cup of coffee.!
— Lee Huddleston (@coyote_one) March 23, 2015
While Starbucks has taken what some would call progressive stances in regard to major American issues including gun control and education in the past, #RaceTogether was different in that the company attempted to create a grassroots initiative instead of enacting corporate policy. In a statement about #RaceTogether from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, he stated “While there has been criticism of the initiative–and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you–let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise. The heart of Race Together has always been about humanity: the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in this country, not just a select few. We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most. We are learning a lot. And will always aim high in our efforts to make a difference on the issues that matter most.”
Many in the press and social media questioned the premise of #RaceTogether on mutiple levels, most notably, the baristas’ ability to effectively discuss an issue as sensitive as race. Additionally some saw it as ironic that a company with a mostly white, male board of directors would be the protagonist for the promotion.
According to the statement the #RaceTogether initiative will extend beyond last week’s initiative into future, yet unamed, events.