Three months ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was widely ridiculed for his idea to get people talking, over Starbucks coffee, about race relations in America. Though he quickly backtracked on a piece of the plan that would have had employees directly engaging customers in discussions about race, he isn’t abandoning the issue.
On Thursday, June 18, Schultz sent a memo to Starbucks employees in the US about the mass shooting that occurred the evening before in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The memo began:
My heart is heavy for Charleston today and the senseless hate crime that has impacted not only that community, but our Starbucks family and our nation as a whole. Emanuel AME Church is a historic place of worship which has played a strong role in the civil rights movement. And, in times like these, we search for answers for how such a horrific act could happen. Now more than ever, I feel the need to reach out to each of you and express my concern, my disbelief and my hope that we can be there for the community and with one another to unite and to heal.
On Friday, June 19, the day that 21-year-old alleged shooter Dylann Roof was charged with nine counts of murder, Schultz was in Charleston, visiting two Starbucks coffee shops not far from the church and one on the campus of the College of Charleston.
A Starbucks spokeswoman says Schultz met with about 75 employees during his visit, and says the company is “working to see what support we can provide to the local community.”
At least some of the responses to Schultz’s efforts to confront the topic of race relations seem a little more receptive this time around.