Today, Starbucks announced a campaign to encourage racial dialogue in its coffeehouses. Titled “Race Together,” the campaign aims to normalize taboo conversations about race. To launch this initiative, the coffeehouse behemoth, known for its
overpriced decorative blends, took out a full page ad in The New York Times.
Like all things racial, there’s backlash. But aside from those folks who denounce any form of racial dialogue with their morning cup-o-Joe, many Black people highlighted the striking irony of the coffee giant talking about race. Starbucks is synonymous with gentrification. When there’s a green mermaid in a low-income neighborhood, housing values increase, independent businesses suffer, and an influx of well-to-do and well intentioned white people start moving in, bringing their prejudices with them.
Starbucks also has an unfortunate ties to the prison industrial complex. Their subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions “hire” Washington state inmates to package their holiday coffees.
Also, is Starbucks going to address prison labor during these race discussions??? Cause that’s how their holiday coffees are packaged
— Kim Moore (@SoulRevision) March 17, 2015
People don’t realize racism is a system. It’s in our institutions. This can’t be undone with whitesplaining and a frappucino #RaceTogether
— Darkskin Aunt Viv (@Shugnice) March 17, 2015
I don’t think Race Forward is a bad idea. These conversations absolutely need to happen, especially when Black folk are routinely harassed and killed by police, are victims of predatory housing policies, are underrepresented in media, are irrevocably trapped in prisons, and are discriminated against in employment.
But the initiative needs some teeth. Whitesplaining racism to an audience uninterested and/or unfamiliar with the plight of Black folk and the insidiousness of institutionalized racism is a recipe doomed for humiliation and ultimate failure. So here are some intersectional and comprehensive ways to really #RaceForward:
1. Stop gentrifying neighborhoods. With 21,000 locations in 65 different countries, there’s no need to continue expanding into low-income neighborhoods.
2. Divest completely from the prison industrial complex, and encourage your fellow multibillion dollar empires — like Microsoft, Victoria Secret, McDonalds, Walmart, JC Penney — to do the same.
3. Gear conversations towards the role multinational corporations play in third world countries. Especially that oh so precious coffee bean.
4. Employ from the same low-income communities you’re in.
5. Explain, in the clearest and simplest of terms, how gentrification and police harassment correlate.
6. Be extremely vocal about the tentacles of gentrification — racism, cultural appropriation, racial erasure, discriminatory housing practices, undue economic hardship, etc.
7. Step back and allow Black and Brown organizers and activists take lead. We have the best solutions because we’re exclusively faced with these problems.