Starbucks customers can once again order their latte without a shot of awkward.
On Sunday, days after Starbucks launched their controversial “Race Together” campaign—an initiative that encouraged baristas to write “RaceTogether” on customer’s coffee cups in the hopes of generating conversation about race in America—came to a fast and furious halt.
According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, RaceTogether was launched on March 16 to “stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.” In the wake of racially charged events that include national protests over police killings in Ferguson, Mo., New York and beyond and the recent SAE Fraternity Scandal, the initiative comes at a time when race-relations in the US are at an all-time high.
In an Internal memo addressed to Starbucks employees, Mr. Schultz wrote; “Our objective from the very start of this effort was to stimulate conversation, empathy, and compassion toward one another, and then to broaden that dialogue.”
In his letter, Mr. Schultz insists the RaceTogether initiative "was always just the catalyst for a much broader and longer term conversation" and that "this initiative is far from over."
#RaceTogether was met with a heavy dose of derision including some harsh backlash on social media in the days that followed, ultimately leading to its demise, critics believe.
In the coming months, Mr. Schultz said the Seattle-based coffee chain will continue their efforts through a collaborating with USA Today to create “special sections” on race, fostering “more open dialogue with police and community leaders” and “expanding our store footprint in urban communities.”
While the cups will no longer be labeled, Starbucks has said they will continue to hold open forums for employees to talk about race and encourage a dialogue with police and community leaders in the cities where it operates.
At a Starbucks in downtown Hoboken, New Jersey Monday, local business owner Yafit Cohen said she didn't think the RaceTogether initiative was appropriate.
“I come here to get caffeinated, not to talk about racial inequality,” Ms. Cohen said. “I get what they’re trying to do, but it just doesn’t seem like they really thought things through.”
On the other side of the counter, barista’s we’re hesitant to talk about the RaceTogether campaign.
“Technically we’re not supposed to talk about anything related to the initiative, and anyone who does could get in big trouble,” store manager Angelica Dobles said. “Personally, I will say that I’m happy it’s being put on pause for the time being.”
As she waited for her breakfast sandwich, Rutgers student Stephanie Ortega lauded the Race Together campaign.
“It was a bold move on their part,” Ortega said. “I mean, this isn’t something that’s just going to go away. Now people are engaged, it’s got us talking about the issues whether we want to or not, and that’s never a bad thing.”