July 26, 2016
Last year when Starbucks announced its #RaceTogether initiative, the backlash was quick and relentless. The idea of having authentic conversations about race relations between Starbucks baristas and customers appeared to be contrived, a publicity stunt and an elitist, narrow-minded, savior-complex way of approaching a serious and complicated issue that requires the voices of people who aren’t spending $4 on a latte each day. The initiative was considered by most to be a failure and as public relations experts rehashed what went wrong, it was a clear that no matter how well intentioned the Starbucks initiative, there remained a disconnect in delivery, execution and tone.
So how do we talk about serious issues in this coffee-to-go, Twitter-feed world? Or should we even try? Is it possible to talk about race, class, gender and sexual orientation in a real way on a Facebook timeline or in a podcast? How do you balance speed with substance?