The power of Starbucks’ sharpies

By Kelyn Struiksma

Last week, Starbucks attempted to address the racial inequality that exists in the United States. However, the efforts and encouragement of CEO Howard Schultz have come to an end and the caps of the black sharpies have been put on after a memo announcement this past Sunday.

On Sunday, March 15, Starbucks had a full-page advertisement in the New York Times — black with the caption “Shall We Overcome?” along with “RaceTogether” and the company logo on the lower half. The ad was a part of the initiative led by Schultz, who released a message urging baristas to start writing the words “Race Together” on customer’s cups. No worker was forced to participate, but were encouraged to join the movement, break down barriers and start a meaningful conversation.

I am always one to advocate that the best way to start a conversation is through a cup of coffee, but I am not convinced the efforts of Schultz were highly effective in making a difference. There was a conversation that took place, but from what I have followed of the story, it was not necessarily the conversations of unity, peace and love that Starbucks was most likely hoping for.

If it isn’t interesting enough, this isn’t the first time the executive has used coffee cups to fulfill a political agenda. In 2012, during the fiscal cliff debate, Schultz encouraged baristas to write “come together” on the cups, promoting the idea of bipartisanship. Unlike the recently trending hashtag, this stunt seemed to pass without too much of a controversy.

Schultz’s idea is admirable, but to have it span only a week is not effective and hardly enough time to bring the needed attention to this highly prominent issue.

Starbucks, an empire of nearly 4,700 stores, has power to influence and reach many individuals. With this said, it is important for the company to use their wide-range consumer base to their advantage. Instead of embarking on week-long initiatives, the company should continually focus on larger causes they wholeheartedly believe in such as their newest proposal. According to Forbes, Starbucks is looking to hire 10,000 teens and young adults who currently do not have jobs in the next three years.

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