For a week, when you went to Starbucks to buy a drink, the baristas, as they are called, would scribble “Race Together” on your cup as a way to encourage you to start a conversation about race relations. I am curious, excited and cautious about this movement. I am also sadden by the withdrawal of this plan by Starbucks after receiving controversial responses.
With my curiosity, I went to the internet in search of the mission of Starbucks and here is what I found:
To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
With our partners, our coffee and our customers at our core, we live these values:
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
- We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.
Now it makes sense for a company with these mission and values to make such a bold and controversial move. I am excited because I saw a great potential for Starbucks “to nurture and inspire the human spirit” in its 12,000 locations across the U.S.
However, I am cautious and concerned about whether the Starbucks employees and customers have the gracious leadership skills to create “a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome” to engage in this dialogue on race with “courage,” “dignity and respect” and with accountability.
Having been involved in interracial dialogue work since the 1980s, I know that to create respectful environments that foster constructive conversations about difficult topics does not happen simply because we want it to happen. It takes intentional efforts, combining with gracious leadership skills to foster such an environment.
Even through Starbucks have pulled this plan, I still want to support the spirit of what Starbucks wanted to do living out of its mission. So, I challenge my 2000+ Facebook friends and the readers of the Sustainist to consider the following:
- Go to your neighborhood Starbucks and propose to set up a space, perhaps a circle of 5 to 6 chairs, in the store designated as the “Race Together Place.”
- Offer to be the facilitator for at least 1 hour a day for 3 days a week.
- Put up a sign inviting people to join the group.
- Interested people are invited to read and sign the following commitment statement before joining the conversation:
I, __________, am interested in participating in a constructive dialogue on race relations, and
- I will share my own story
- I will be curious and listen to others’ stories
- I will ask clarifying questions, and not debate who is right or wrong
- I will seek to understand
- I will not interrupt, judge, despair
- and I know it is okay to be angry but will not use my anger to hurt others.
5. At each session, there will be a topic for dialogue, here are some possibilities:
- If I have to say who I am racially, I would say I am . . .
- As a person of my racial background, one advantage I have is . . .
- As a person of my racial background, one challenge I face is . . .
- Recall an early experience in which you learn that skin color difference is a positive thing. Recall an early experience in which you learn that skin color difference is a negative thing. Share your stories and listen to others.
Upcoming Opportunities to Study with The Sustainist and learn more about Holy Conferencing:
March 19-24, 2015
April 21-25, 2015
July 20-25, 2015
August 6-11, 2015
November 1-5, 2015
Reflection Questions for 5th Sunday in Lent (Year B)
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world