Starbucks employees are no longer being encouraged to scrawl “Race Together” on customer’s cups in order to help start conversations about American race relations, the company announced Sunday.
However, the company says this marks not the end of its foray into matters of race, but only the beginning.
For the past week, Starbucks surprised, amused and baffled many customers by encouraging its employees to write “Race Together” on the cups of customers. According to the company, it was hoped that the writing would spark questions from consumers and in turn encourage them to have thoughtful conversations about race relations in the country following high-profile incidents like the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The initiative was bolstered by an 8-page insert included in last Friday’s USA Today, which provided conversation starters such as “In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race ___ times.”
Starbucks announced the initiative one week ago, and was quickly hit with the kind of roasting usually reserved for its coffee beans. People of all races ridiculed the company on Twitter and made pointed observations about the company’s relative lack of racial diversity in its own corporate hierarchy. However, the company says it always planned to stop the cup-writing campaign on Sunday, and that the announcement wasn’t a response to backlash. (RELATED: Herman Cain Mocks Starbucks’ ‘Drive-Thru Race Relations’)
“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,” said CEO Howard Schultz in an open letter released Sunday. “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.”
Whether the company planned to stop on Sunday is not clear, as the exact dates of the effort were never announced by the company. Whether it canceled the plan early or not, though, the company isn’t backing away from its plans to launch even more race-related efforts in the near future. (RELATED: Starbucks Menu Items That Make Me Think About Race)
“This initiative is far from over,” said Schultz. Upcoming efforts, he said, would include producing three more special sections to be published in USA Today, open forums for employees, “open dialogue” with police and a commitment to hire 10,000 “opportunity youth” at the company in the next 3 years.