Starbucks and race: Show me the Caffe Mocha Vente

The socially conscious owner of Starbucks Howard Schultz wants America to have a conversation about race relations. Not everyone agrees. But I think it’s a great idea. We still have issues but not everyone wants to talk about them

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania NewIn one of my favorite movies, Jerry MaGuire, a cutthroat sports agent wakes up in the middle of the night and has an inspiration to craft a “mission statement” that defines the moral and ethical way to manage athletes.

Apparently, sports agents think first and foremost about money and profits, and not about the health of their athletes.

Is any American business better?

Well, maybe one. Last week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had a “Jerry MaGuire Moment.” Again.

Schultz asked his 182,000 employees to “facilitate a conversation” about Race. The immediate reaction from the cynical American news media and the greedy “show me the money” business world was relentless criticism that was abusive and unfair.

It makes me wonder what’s wrong with our world. A successful business person builds a brand based on ethical business practices, but is unmercifully brutalized for suggesting that we make this a better world?

Schultz had two prior JMMs, when he asked the public not to bring their guns into his 21,366 stores, and when he expressed support for same sex marriage.

English: Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, book d...

English: Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, book discussion for “Onward” at Borders on State Street Chicago April 12, 2011. Photo by Adam Bielawski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s wrong with safety, or treating other people with respect? Which led him to his next thought:

“What if we were to write ‘Race Together’ on every Starbucks cup and that facilitated a conversation between you and our customers?” Schultz asked. “And what if our customers, as a result of that, had a renewed level of understanding and sensitivity about the issue and they themselves would spread that to their own sphere of influence?”

Schultz plastered the idea all over his company’s website at

The truth is racism is still a major problem in America. We just don’t like to talk about it.

I remember growing up when major streets were racial dividing lines that you didn’t cross in Chicago if you were White, Black or Hispanic.

There was a time when you could get beat up for the color of your skin. I’ve been beaten up by Black kids while hitching hiking on 79th Street to Rainbow Beach back in the 1969s. And that same year a White, off-duty Evergreen Park Police Officer grabbed me by my shoulder and dragged me two blocks to the bus stop yelling all the way there that he didn’t move there so people like me could ruin his neighborhood. He shoved me on the bus, heading east (instead of west where I lived). The sympathetic bus driver, who was Black, didn’t charge me for the ride.

But the days of White Flight and whole neighborhoods fleeing when a Black family moved into your neighborhood seem to be gone.

StarBucks Logo

StarBucks Logo

Today’s not like the 1960s. We keep our racism close to the vest. (Go to my website at and read my online book about racial problems in the 1960s called “Midnight Flight.”)

People smile at each other, today, but the truth is we prefer to be among our own. That’s not a bad thing. In reality, race and racism are still major issues and have expanded into “diversity,” to include ethnic, gender and religious differences, too.

Ironically, although the mainstream media is hammering Schultz, the media is the worst practitioners of diversity.

I applaud Schultz. Race and racism are still major problems in our world and it’s time someone started talking about it.

But what really gets me is that people will pay more than $4 for coffees with fancy names, but they won’t talk about race?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter, and media consultant. Reach him at [email protected].)

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post,, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania

Latest posts by Ray Hanania (see all)

  • Ray Hanania

    Readers write:

    Ray, I don’t need a coffee purveyor, nor one of his payed representatives, to try to lecture me on their perceptions of race relations in this country. I grew up in the 60’s in the West Englewood area. We left because we were “run out” of there by the Disciples street gang. Getting stabbed at 63rd and Ashland is my lasting memory of that area. West Englewood now is one of the most violent pieces of real estate in this hemisphere. I’m certain that if I stayed, out of some righteous reason, I would be long dead. Despite your slant on the issue of “White Flight,” people left because THEY HAD TO !

    Evergreen Park, Il.
    Sent from my iPad

  • Ray Hanania

    Readers write:

    A few thoughts on the Starbucks article if people don’t like what Howard Schultz puts on his cups they can buy their coffee elsewhere. Why people don’t want to talk about race at Starbucks? It’s too controversial if you’re buying a coffee you’re in a hurry or you want to relax why ruin the mood by talking about controversial subjects race, same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. Myself, I’m 52 years old I’ve heard all the arguments about race by now. Most people are set in their thoughts so why give yourself that headache by talking about it. If you talk to a person from a minority group about race and disagree with them. They’ll say you’re a racist so again why give yourself that headache. Have a good day.

    Brad S.