So this is a thing that’s happening.
It reminds me of previous discussions we’ve had about people in service jobs being expected to do emotional labor, not just their actual physical jobs. I think we had those discussions around the time of the Starbucks #cometogether, but this seems way worse, especially for employees of color, often serving a predominantly white clientele.
It also reminds me of previous discussions we’ve had about corporate pinkwashing (e.g. the rainbow oreo cookie) and the potential analogues for other causes. is this an example of racewashing, or whatever word you’d use instead? or is it something different?
I guess first of all, I think racewashing does happen. My example would be that cheerios ad with the interracial couple. It was a corporate attempt to win some easy good will among liberal, wealthy consumers. It’s pretty freaking sad that the ad was a conscious political statement, because it should be unremarkable for people of color and interracial couples to see themselves reflected in popular media, but nevertheless, it did read as political. It also read as insincere given that the ad was made solely to make more money for general mills, but it was also heartwarming and cute, and ultimately, everything else held constant, a world where that ad exists is nicer than one where it doesn’t.
My guess is that Starbucks is trying to hit a similar sweet spot with this campaign.
If so, they are pretty far off the mark. I’m still gathering my thoughts on why, and I would love to talk about it, but to start with:
I think this ad is a response to increased media attention to police brutality and systemic racial injustice in our country. Like, some white ad exec who hadn’t really thought about racial injustice before has decided that race is having its “moment” and he should capitalize on it. It’s trivializing a movement that’s fighting for something as fundamental and important as not being murdered for the color of your skin.
Furthermore, the campaign suggests that the way to solve racial injustice in the country is to start talking about it. Given that there have been people (mostly people of color) talking about racial injustice in this country for a long long time, suggesting we need to start a conversation just highlights the fact that most white people simply have not been listening. Also, putting the burden on oppressed people to “explain your oppression to me” is classic derailing and a shitty thing to do. I guess this ad campaign seems very clearly just aimed at white people.
Additionally, a non-trivial segment of the population who would agree to the statement “as a country, we need to be more comfortable talking about race,” actually just have bigoted beliefs that they currently feel uncomfortable expressing. I don’t want them to feel more comfortable. Presumably (hopefully) neither do the creators of this ad campaign, but I worry they’ll see it as an invitation.