Starbucks has come out with a new ad campaign that seeks to eliminate racism from American society by writing ‘Race Together’ on the side of their cups. The idea is that by writing these words on the side of a cup a ‘national dialogue’ will be instigated. The idea was inspired by the racial tension, protests and violence that have occurred in places from Ferguson, Missouri to New York City and Oakland, California, exposing chronic, deep-seated social antagonisms.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz expressed his dismay with the ongoing racial tensions.
“We have problems in this country with regard to race and racial inequality. We believe we’re better than this, and we believe the country is better than this. There is a need for compassion, empathy and love towards others.”
In truth this is nothing more than a cheap advertising ploy to get people to purchase their coffee. Starbucks is trying to take a real issue and use it as a method of marketing their product to the public. This is part of a trend of ‘conscious consumerism’. It’s a method capitalists use to turn anger or at least minor guilty feelings about race relation into supporting the system that perpetuates it, and turning a tidy profit at the same time. The point is to try and distract us away from taking any real action against racism and instead have us focus on buying things.
It is in reality reactionary liberalism.
““Conscious consumerism,” “lifestylism,” etc. can become an obstacle to the real struggle against imperialism. It is imperialism without imperialism. It gives the peoples of the First World yet another lifestyle option. They can largely maintain their First World lifestyle, but now they do not have to feel guilty about it because they buy Zapatista coffee. The First World liberal no longer has to deal with his own conscience, but above-and-beyond that, can boast at the cafe about how great they are for being so caring about Mother Earth since they purchased a Prius. First World people should feel some sense of guilt for the tremendous suffering they are inflicting on the planet and its peoples through their standard of living, and the bombs and death squads that maintain it. Yet now they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have their imperial lifestyle while soothing their own conscience and stroking their own ego about how great they are for being “conscious consumers.” They can partake of empire while seeing themselves as resisting it.”
I wonder how many yuppie Starbucks they’ll be opening in majority African-American neighbourhoods? I’m sure the ghettos and ‘hoods will welcome over priced coffee with open arms and embrace them as members of the community. There’s a reason why Starbucks doesn’t go to these places. The levels of poverty are too great for people to casually waste money on such an overpriced frivolity. Starbucks is a leader in providing poverty-level wages so I hardly think they’re in any position to “bring up” the African-American community.
In what reality do people think this advertising campaign will work? Somehow having White middle and upper class people walking around with ‘Race Together’ written on their cups is supposed to cure economic inequality and longstanding social racial divides. It won’t, and every member of the capitalist class, including Starbucks, knows that. This is a joke to them, this is a laugh they get out of using people’s resistance to doing anything to turn a profit.
Poverty is not cured by good intensions, it is cured by radically altering the economic structure of society. Capitalism, a system of inequality, predicated on inequality, cannot cure inequality. Poverty can only be cured by the elimination of the production of social value according to the drive for profits instead of according to need. So long as it goes according to the market, the social product will not go where it is needed. This ‘feel good’ capitalism is nothing more than a sham to keep people from taking the radical action needed to solve the problem.
White liberals can now sleep soundly knowing that they drank a coffee to fight injustice.
This is to say nothing of the global production of coffee workers around the world. Outright slavery is carried out to produce the luxury drink that First Worlders enjoy. This petty feel good campaign washes over the global misery that is carried out by desperately poor peasant farmers. The First World activists however would have you focus on the issue of First World race, instead of the source of their own privilege.
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Starbucks Attempts To Heal Race Relations, One Latte At A Time, Forbes
Trademarking Coffee: Starbucks cuts Ethiopia deal, CorpWatch
On Conscious Consumerism, Lifestylism: a letter from a reader, LLCO.org