As with a lot of breaking news, the Starbucks announcement that it was foregoing its campaign on race-relations entered my psyche first thing in the morning with my radio reveille. At the time, it brought forth only a simple sigh of resignation that what seemed like a worthy attempt ended in such a quick and angry fashion.
The day after though got me to thinking; not all of a sudden but it came to me on the heels of a song. The Commodore’s record from the late 70’s, Machine Gun, was rocking and it was then that I thought first of the damaging effects of ego.
Freud’s member of the tripartite of the human psyche has tricked up many a good thing on this earth, least of all music. Listening to the Commodore’s, I remembered how good they were, with a unique and new sound unlike anything heard so far back then. And then along came ego, Lionel Richie’s to be exact, and the rest shall we say is history.
So what happened with Starbucks, you ask? Was the potentially, destructive force of ego present there in such a commendable idea as the one presented by CEO, Howard Schultz? To that I say, most definitely. The problems began with the announcement.
Starbucks impression of itself has always been that they were a cut above, more enlightened if about nothing other than our java. It was this ideal self that the company saw bringing racial harmony to the states.
Once its “Race Together” campaign was publicized, a sense of propriety had firmly secured its grip on everything. Putting the cart before the horse, the company began by thinking about how it would all come together; how such a culmination could and would benefit mankind and ultimately their bottom line.
Doing things a better way, ego could’ve been effectively removed from the whole equation with a lack of publicity and self-promotion. Cups printed sans announcement would prompt merely a question of what it was all about. Afterwards, queries of “what’s it for?”, “what’s it mean?” or “what’re you trying to do?” could lead to the eventual discussion that you sought in the first place. And you’d get there without any indication of high-handedness or greed on your part.
Speaking of which; that they pulled the plug so quickly after initial public anger indicates that it was always about the money and never about our relationships with each other. Put another way, race was never an only concern. If it was, “Race Together” would still be on and eventually, after everyone got used to the idea of it being on their coffee cup, we would’ve gotten down to the business at hand: conversation.
And like everyone has been saying with their tongue in cheek, it wouldn’t have been pretty. One would only hope that Starbucks would have prepared itself for the inevitable and possible physical confrontations that such discourse would bring.
There’s two ways to look at this. On one hand, truth doesn’t come that easy or without any pain. If we go mining for this diamond of life’s personal experiences-especially about something as polarizing as race-then we have to be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride that takes a bunch of hard curves pass resentment and wicked dips through anger. Starbucks forgot that little human tidbit.
And on the other hand, don’t we bare some blame in this? We want discussion about race; except we want it on our terms, as we like it, when we like it, no pain. We don’t want to talk about it before breakfast or with our morning coffee but in the same breath, we recognize the need to begin fixing this situation sooner rather than later. Really?
I’m just saying that if we care and truly want discussion then we’ll give it more of a shot than simply a couple of days and endure what we have to do to get it. We should remember that for the next time someone gets the (good) idea that we should race together.
Original Photo by Julius Schorzman