In an effort to solve race issues across the nation, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is launching the "RaceTogether" campaign, which enables baristas to spark up a conversation about race with customers.
"We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America," Schultz said in a corporate release on Monday. The campaign will also be a focal point at Starbucks' annual meeting on Wednesday.
Starting next week, the employees of the world's largest coffee chain will be asked to write "RaceTogether" on customers' cups as an invitation to talk to them about race, according to the New York Daily News.
Starbucks is partnering with USA Today for this initiative, and a piece titled "Race Together" that's co-authored by Starbucks and USA Today will appear in the newspaper beginning March 20. The papers will also be available at Starbucks stores, USA Today reported.
"Racial diversity is the story of America, our triumphs as well as our faults, yet racial inequality is not a topic we readily discuss. It's time to start," reads the opening line to the 8-page conversation guide. The document is signed by both Schultz and Larry Kramer, the president and publisher of USA Today.
The java giant released newspaper ads that read "Race Together" and "Shall We Overcome?" with the text shown over a black background.
"If a customer asks you what this is, try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race. And we believe that we are better than this, and we believe our country is better than this," Schultz told employees in a video.
He acknowledges that this campaign will not be a permanent solution, but it is a chance to bring this issue into the light with hopes of unifying people "one conversation at a time."
Employees who feel "uncomfortable" with the plan aren't required to participate, and can also replace cups for customers who don't want to participate either, according to the NY Daily News.
This isn't the first time Schultz - a well-known human rights activist - has tried to bring people together. The CEO insisted that the multibillion dollar corporation support gay marriage and gun control, despite investors' opinions.
Vanity Fair addresses some potential problems with the upcoming campaign.
"How will employees choose which customers to approach for conversations about race? Will customers of color feel as though they are either being singled out or avoided for such conversations? At what point does a barista end a conversation and return to the mounting stacks of latte orders awaiting them?"
All valuable questions - and time will tell if the initiative gathers support or offends Starbucks customers.