For far too long, western society has found it acceptable to disregard topics due to their inherently controversial nature. This, I believe, is one of the biggest mistakes that we have made as a society. Ignoring topics does not make them disappear and it certainly doesn't help them improve. As Edmund Burke so eloquently stated, “The only necessary thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." The fact is, living in a society, you have not only the right, but the responsibility to fight for the just treatment of all and more often than not that is going to mean conversation.
So, what's the point? How does this relate to Starbucks' new #racetogether campaign? Well, let me explain. Almost every negative response I have heard regarding the new Starbucks campaign to help bring awareness to race relation issues in the U.S. has stemmed from some feeling of personal inconvenience. Either partners saying things like, "Well, I just don't want to come to work and talk about controversial topics" or from customers, "I just want to get my coffee and go, I don't want a dialogue about race." While this isn't everyone's response, it has been stated enough that it needs to be addressed.
As stated earlier, as part of a society, it is our responsibility to look out for the just treatment of others. The problem we face in this country, however, is that we feel entitled to a certain lifestyle that is free from controversy. We don't want to be bothered with issues that don't vibe with our touch-and-go lifestyles. We accept the happy consciousness. The problem with that attitude, however, is that things don't change if we aren't willing to change them. Just because we want a soy latte without the threat of, God forbid, a conversation about race, doesn't mean that the issue is going to go away. Or just because you want to order your iced coffee with two sugars, cream, and hold the dialogue, doesn't mean that injustice isn't being perpetuated due to our unwillingness to address the issue.
As I've said before, the ability to peaceably disagree is paramount for the flourishing of a society. The systematic disassociation of individuals due to a difference of belief is the beginning stages of a totalitarian social order that accepts the status quo because the contrary is uncomfortable. But if we choose to shy away from these issues because they are too "controversial" we are in part to blame for their continuation.
So, to what small extent this #racetogether gesture isn't simply a gimmicky, marketing ploy, I commend Howard and his company for being willing to encourage a long lost art in this society, the art of dialogue.
While we can quibble about imperfections of the approach, the value in what Howard Schultz has done with this campaign is found in his willingness to challenge the status quo. With this campaign, Schultz was willing to take a stand, despite the consequences. Which is a characteristic that this country desperately needs.
Feel free to add you thoughts below!
Thom Schultz is a writer/philanthropist/musician from Tampa, Fl. He has a Bachelors in English Literature with a Minor in Philosophy from the University of South Florida. He is currently studying for his Master of the Liberal Arts Degree at the University of South Florida St. Pete. He also plays drummer and writes lyrics for his band, I Shot the Albatross.
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