Starbucks Talks Race over Coffee

March 19, 2015 Off By Michael
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz defends his company's Race Together campaign on racial discussions. Photo Credits

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz defends his company’s Race Together campaign on racial discussions. Photo Credits

Starbucks just added a jolt to a morning cup of java. The jolt is not from some exotic Central American  or African brew. This bounce is not due to an extravagant aromatic coffee bean. The added sway does not come from what is in the cup. It’s what is written on the cup and what the Starbuck’s server says to you when you pick up your cup of java that is jerking Americans awake.

This week, Starbucks introduced it’s “Race Together” cup and encouraged its employees to begin a discussion with its customers on race.

Finally, someone has joined President Obama’s call for a national discussion on race.  It was seven years ago this week that President Obama first called for a national conversation on race. This speech was delivered in Philadelphia and is credited with securing him the Democratic nomination and ultimately the presidency. However, few Americans heeded his plea for honest racial discussions.  

Following the jury verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, Obama again renewed his call for a national discussion on race in a Friday afternoon news conference. As I wrote in “Justice in the Round,” President Obama did not call this news conference to announce that black people should engage in a national discussion on race, but that white Americans should begin these painful discussions.

Few did.

The President again asked the nation to begin this important dialogue following the turmoil in Ferguson.

Starbucks has launched a campaign to start this conversation over a cup of coffee. The idea has met with skepticism in the first few hours . The last thing a caffeine addict wants in the early morning before that first cup of coffee is a serious conversation on any topic.  And racial discussions are way, way down the list.

Yet Starbucks and kitchen tables across America are precisely the places where this racial discussion must begin.

Wake-up America! Have a cup of java and a frank discussion on why you feel the way you feel about people in a  racial group different than your own. Hopefully, your discussion will change how you view people who are not members of your ethnic, religious, political or social groups.


Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at He can be contacted at