Starbucks announced today that baristas at the coffee giant’s 20,000 U.S. stores will no longer write “Race Together” on cups after an attempt to start a conversation about race was met with backlash from the general public. In a companywide memo penned by Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO announced the conclusion of the “Race Together” program while recognizing that “there has been criticism” since the initiative launched.
“Our objective from the very start of this effort… was to stimulate conversation, empathy and compassion toward one another, and then to broaden that dialogue beyond just our Starbucks family to the greater American public by using our scale for good,” Schultz wrote. “After a historic Annual Shareholders Meeting that focused on diversity and inequality, and an initial push for much-needed national discussion around these difficult topics, it is time for us to take stock of where we are, what we have learned from our efforts so far, and what is next. “
While the sudden end of “Race Together” implies that the initiative was swiftly canceled in light of mounting criticism, Schultz noted that the inscribing ended Sunday “as originally planned.” Starbucks, along with USA Today, launched the Race Together initiative on March 17th, but the message – and its quickly mocked hashtag – was largely met with confusion and indifference from both Starbucks employees and consumers.
Soon after the launch, Schultz found himself defending the company’s actions, saying of the initiative, “Our intentions are pure,” while the negative backlash even drove Starbucks VP of Communications Corey duBrowa to temporarily delete his Twitter account.
“While there has been criticism of the initiative – and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you – let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz continued in Sunday’s memo. “The heart of Race Together has always been about humanity: the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in this country, not just a select few. We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most. We are learning a lot.”