On August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown, a black man, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting reignited racial tensions in America and also gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Looking to interject themselves into the incredibly sensitive topic, Starbucks asked its baristas to write #RaceTogether on its cups. The idea was that people would take to Twitter to talk about race and ethnicity in America. Customers, who probably just wanted their overpriced caffeinated drink, didn’t respond well. They used the hashtag to blast the multi-billion dollar company for trying to exploit a real social issue for their own marketing. Critics also pointed out that racism is a major problem and a hashtag promoted by Starbucks wasn’t going to improve the situation.
The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, noted that there was controversy, but said the company’s intentions were purely innocent. Others point out that the last person who should be coordinating a discussion on race is a white guy worth $3.1 billion.