Starbucks ended their “Race Together” campaign today. They said they had always planned to end it today, but idk about that. Seems real convenient seeing as they got so much backlash for it. For the record, I was never a backlasher. I’m not saying that Starbuck’s approach was efficient or that it made the most sense to me, but I appreciated the effort. They could’ve hired someone (like me) to guide them through a more thoughtful approach, but whatevs.
America (arguably, the world) has a race problem. It’s a mess! I personally think it’s such a mess because it’s so pervasive that we don’t even notice it. For example, I think George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin because Trayvon’s blackness made him fearful for his life. I also think George honestly thinks it wasn’t racially motivated (I actually don’t know what this dude thinks at this point in his life. He’s been through some things and plus, he’s just weird). That’s the messed up part! People are out here being racist and they don’t recognize it as racism. And institutional racism makes me wonder how many generations it will really take to rid ourselves of the problem.
Institutional racism is the idea that racism permeates every area of our society, not just individual’s actions/thoughts/attitudes but the structures in which we conduct our lives. For example, mortgage lending to African Americans and Hispanics decreased by 62% between 2004 and 2009 but only 17% for whites. Like, did all the people at all the Bank of Americas get together at the annual We Hate Black & Brown People conference and decide to deny loans to certain people? Probably not although I don’t know for sure because I wouldn’t have been invited to the conference. That’s just that institutional racism, my dude.
I think racism is a sneaky, stealthy, sly, ugly little snake in the grass that bites us in the butt and then crawls away leaving us to believe that it’s something else. We turn around and look at our butts like what bit me? Couldn’t have been racism. It’s just that black and Hispanic people don’t know how to manage their money well so they shouldn’t get loans. It’s not racism. It’s just that black and Hispanic people like living in apartments and mobile homes so they don’t even need mortgages. It’s not racism. It’s just that black and Hispanic people . . . ummm . . . they . . . uhhhh . . . they’re just . . . they don’t even like money so they don’t need to get loans. Someone got bit by the ugly, racist snake and is in denial.
One way to combat the snake is to talk about it and warn people to be on the lookout for it, in themselves and in others. If you’re not sure the snake exists or don’t know how to fortify yourself against it, you’ll have a harder time fighting it. It’s going to get you! If everyone is talking about the snake, looking out for the snake, calling the snake out when they see it, and carrying their machetes in their pockets to slay the snake, it might go extinct. I’m not sure of this. I don’t know. But maybe. (The thought of people carrying machetes in their pockets tickles me. I picture a dude trying to be slick like we don’t see the handle sticking out of his pocket . . . We see your machete, brotha. We know you came here to slay racism. It’s cool. Just watch out for my arm. I need it to reach for my iced coffee)
So yeah, Starbucks gets a thumbs up from me. I don’t think they’re changing lives over mocha lattes but you can’t say they’re not trying. You can’t say it’s too little because two weeks ago, it didn’t even exist. You can’t say it’s misplaced coming from a coffee distributor because there is absolutely no arena in which race does not matter if it ever matters (and it does). And if I hear one more person talking about the need for professionals to facilitate conversations about race, I’m going to scream. Your little five-year-old terror of a child is not a professional and can tell me all about white people, black people, Asians, and Martians, so what are we talking about? I agree with Alfred Edmond Jr. at Black Enterprise magazine who basically said that the plan doesn’t have to be perfect; the plan may offend some; the plan can miss whole groups of people. So what? I think it’ll take a whole lot of little things, a few big things, and an open mind to end racism. A Starbucks spokesperson said, “We know that we don’t have all the solutions and the answers, but for us, doing nothing makes us part of the problem.” You shole right, Starbucks. Now get on board, naysayers.