An Ex-Barista’s Shares Her Opinion On Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ Campaign

Flickr / Helen.Yang
Flickr / Helen.Yang

As if you’ve spent your day spending more time with green beer than the internet, you might have missed Starbucks’ big announcement today. The corporation’s CEO, Howard Schultz, is releasing the newest campaign to “Race Together,” an effort to create conversations between baristas and their costumers about race relation.

Those mixing drinks are encouraged to write, “Race Together” on Starbucks cups to create awareness of this new prompt and therefore embrace a conversation. The world seems to be opening up with mixed reviews of the situation but as an ex-barista, I’m having trouble backing up this Grande controversy.

As a barista, you’re literally expected to take about 30 seconds to make a drink- a seemingly absurd expectation (let’s not even talk about secret menu fraps). Yet, in the process of that, you need to maintain a “connection” with customers awaiting their drinks in queue. In that time, it’s difficult to focus on one thing or the other, but now Starbucks is also expecting people to have a racial debate in the process?

I think that their heart is partially in the right place about this, but race is not a 30 second to 5 minute conversation. The likely hood of this spinning out of hand is pretty high if you consider all of the possible scenarios.

Each person has gone through their own situations that lead them to have their own perceptions of race. Some people are more open than others, while many are prone to racial biases on different sides. So now, Starbucks is putting their employees in an awkward position. If they believe the adage, “the customer is always right,” a barista is forced to nod and smile through a coffee consumers racial rant, no matter how bigoted.

But if the barista wants to actually speak their mind on the subject, they’re risking creating a tense situation for themselves. Truthfully, I’ve gotten yelled at because we were out of Pumpkin Spice. If executives of Starbucks think their employees won’t get worse responses, being the people who actually have to deal with the customers, they’re mistaken.

In the end, this is sadly seeming to be another Starbucks’ cry for attention. The company prides itself on being known for its quality corporate climate, yet it doesn’t always trickle down that way. Increasing starting wage was theoretically responsible, yet this brought the rate for seasoned employees at the same wage as those who were just starting out, despite the raises current baristas had received.

Implementing “free” college to full time baristas seemed generous, yet it was only for ASU and only online, and that was only if you had actually gotten a call back from a coordinator- a difficult feat. Now, this stunt to bring race into the conversation may make Starbucks look more socially responsible, without actually taking responsibility for the effects it will have on baristas. TC mark

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