Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced Sunday that his company’s recent push to encourage dialogue with customers on race by inviting employees to write “Race Together” on cups is ending.
“I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz wrote in a letter to staff. While some praised the effort as a bold foray into a culturally sensitive topic, critics railed against the campaign as insufficient and out of place. “We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most,” Schultz wrote.
Schultz maintained that the larger “Race Together” campaign remains intact with plans to hire 10,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24, who are neither in school nor employed, over the next three years. According to a Starbucks newsletter, there are nearly seven million of these so-called “opportunity youth” across the nation.
Starbucks will continue placing advertisements promoting dialogue in USA Today, like the full-page ads that launched the “Race Together” campaign last week with the words “Shall We Overcome?” The coffee chain also plans to expand into urban neighborhoods.
Schultz initially dismissed the claim that race would be a sensitive topic for his company, saying in a video message posted to the site that "We need a new level of sensitivity and understanding around these issues and perhaps we can again really create an elevate a conversation in our stores that can go well beyond."