What Racial Diversity Looks Like at Starbucks

By Aura Bogado Mar 17, 2015

As you’ve probably read on Morning Rush or seen on Black Twitter, Starbucks has launched a race initiative. The chain is asking its baristas across its 12,000 United States stores to spark dicussions about the thorny topic of race with customers by writing the words "Race together" on their cups.

According to the corporation’s "newsroom," CEO Howard Schultz sowed the seeds for the initiative in December by distributing a letter to all U.S. employees about how he was watching "with a heavy heart" the "tragic events and unrest" connected to white police killings of black victims including Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

At an all-staff meeting that month at its Seattle headquarters, employees "representing various ages, races and ethnicities passed a microphone and shared personal stories" with Schultz, who has said, "We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America. Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are."

Starbucks says it held subsequent "open race dialogues" in Chicago, L.A., New York City, Oakland and St. Louis. The company claims that baristas in some of those cities took it upon themselves to write "Race Together" on their customers’ cups. Corporate picked up the tactic, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, and partnered wtih USA Today to create special supplements about race. 

Talking about race is what we’re all about at Colorlines. While we can appreciate individual conversations, we believe that systemic change is crucial. So we decided to take a quick look at how Starbucks does the very basic concept of racial diversity.

At press time Starbucks’ media relations team has not responded to e-mail and phone messages. So we gathered outside information about what Starbucks’ executive team looks like, what CEO Schultz is paid, what its workers look like and how much baristas reportedly make. If Starbucks wants to talk about race, its diversity–or lack thereof in the case of executives–may be a good place to start.