Actress Thandie Newton went out to get coffee and came across a statue of a Black child dressed in a loin cloth and wearing a safari hat at a central London Starbucks. The display harkens back to the 19th and early 20th century racial caricatures of Black people as “noble savages” and “dimwitted servants.” The irony here is that Starbucks wanted to solve the race issue just last year.
The organization passionately tried to better race relations in America with its “Race Together” campaign, which encouraged discussions on the subject of race and piggybacked on the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.
“The Seattle coffee chain this week [March of 2015] began encouraging, but not requiring, its baristas to write the words “Race Together” on cups to get its customers talking about race,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “Its website features photos of the cups held by smiling workers and customers of many races.”
The whole initiative was a complete failure. Many people voiced their opinions on Twitter, forcing Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz to own up to the mistake.
Plus, the company has had issues with hiring over the years. Many have criticized the company for not hiring a diverse range of employees, and Starbucks saw an opportunity to correct this.
“If we just keep going about our business and ringing the Starbucks register every day and ignoring this, then I think we are, in a sense, part of the problem,” Schultz said last year.
— Thandie Newton (@thandienewton) January 4, 2016
The company has many more issues to worry about. Accusations that the company uses prison labor to lower production costs and increase profits have made headlines over the years. The company has also allegedly exploited Ethiopian coffee farmers.
— perfect hlongwane (@perfecthow) January 6, 2016
Newton’s bold act of calling out the company has put them back in the spotlight. The company has issued an apology via Twitter and vows to correct the issue.
@thandienewton we are very concerned to learn of this incident & we can’t apologise enough. We have removed the figure & are investigating.
— Starbucks Help (@starbuckshelp) January 5, 2016