Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has launched a new initiative that will encourage the company’s baristas to talk to patrons about America’s racial issues.
To trigger the conversations, in the next week baristas will be encouraged to write the phrase “Race Together” on customers cups, which is intended to “facilitate a conversation between you and our customers,” according to Schultz.
“If a customer asks you what this is, try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race. And we believe that we are better than this, and we believe our country is better than this,” Schultz said in a video shown to Starbucks employees, according to USA Today.
The campaign is being bolstered by an 8-page supplement that will be published Friday by the coffeemaker in USA Today. The supplement will include “conversation starters,” such as the statement “In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.”
The campaign is said to be inspired by the controversy emanating from the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner last year, both of them black men killed by white police officers. What the initiative hopes to accomplish in the long run is unclear, though the company will be offering more information during its annual meeting on Wednesday.
The new effort is only the latest of the company’s actions that appear designed to bolster the company’s reputation as a socially conscious corporation. Last year, the company created a new program that allows employees to take free online college classes at Arizona State University.
The company is already being mocked on Twitter, as many view the campaign as a classic example of hamfisted corporate intrusion into social and political issues.
However, mockery is coming from people of all races, so perhaps Starbucks’s campaign is already accomplishing its goal.