Starbucks CEO Defends ‘Race Together’ Campaign Despite Criticism

The Associated Press

After taking heavy criticism for directing employees to begin hectoring customers about racism, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz defended his “Race Together” program, saying “we must do more” to discuss racism in America.

The new race-based program came to light only a few days ago when Fortune reported that the famed coffee company was initiating its “Race Together” campaign.

Almost immediately the campaign was criticized as inappropriate, and a few days later, Starbucks’ top man was forced to defend the idea in the face of withering attacks.

Telling the L.A. Times that he had recently begun to reach out to people “who have a greater understanding” of the race issue than he, Schultz insisted that the company still intends to push the idea.

Schultz said that the idea came to him after a discussion on race at the company’s Seattle headquarters.

“Now, there will be cynics,” Schultz said, “At every single open forum that I led, partners came up to me and said, ‘Howard, we must do more.'”

Schultz told the media that he will stay the course. But he also had a message for shareholders worried over the attacks on social media. “All I am asking of you is to understand what we’re trying to do, to understand our intentions,” Schultz told them. “We strongly believe that our best days are ahead of us.”

But not everyone thinks that a coffee shop is the best place to have such a discussion, even from those on the left.

Extreme left-wing advocacy website Think Progress thought it was “obnoxious” that a company that already “manipulates language” thought it had a legitimate role to talk about race.

Danielle Henderson at Fusion said, “The Starbucks ‘Race Together’ campaign sounds like a terrible idea.”

Even left-wing former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called the idea a “flawed” one but still felt the greater discussion was a necessary one.

Additionally, the generally liberal Washington Post even had a little fun at Starbucks’ expense with a piece exploring the “snarkiest tweets” about the coffee house and its new racebaiting policy.

The attacks weren’t all so benign, though. It got so heated for Corey duBrowa, the company’s senior vice president of communications, that the executive deleted his entire Twitter account to avoid the mounting recriminations.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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