Guest Post: Let’s Bring the Race Dialogue to Starbucks

I was asked to circulate the following article:

Earlier this week, Starbucks announced its plans for a new initiative to bravely combat the menace of racism in America. What better way to take this courageous stand than to harangue its employees into discussing race relations with hapless customers? In what their website describes as a measure to promote the creation of a “more empathetic and inclusive society”, baristas are encouraged to write the words “Race Together” on customers’ cups. This is, of course, in order to incite them to ask “what the hell?”, thereby inviting a lecture on race relations from educated individuals who have chosen to dispense coffee to strangers as their adult career.

It’s difficult to focus on just one terrible element of this plan. The multibillionaire coffee empire has solicited well-deserved criticism from all points along the social and political spectrum, from the left’s accusations that white policy makers demean minority baristas by forcing this engagement, to a more universal sentiment of “all I want is a goddamn cup of coffee!” Many of these criticisms have attracted high-profile attention, and I will not attempt to retread them here.

Of course, news coverage is neglecting to mention what might be Starbucks’ biggest foible here. While they claim the purpose is to “foster discussion and an exchange of ideas”, they’re clearly interested only in advocating a single specific perspective based on the critical race theory common to every postmodern liberal arts campus. Open and informed discussion is impossible if it’s restricted to a single perspective: the marketplace of ideas only works with a diversity of perspectives, and discussions about race are not exempt.
If it’s going to be a properly informed discussion, then it ought to include some data that aren’t often discussed. Why, Dave the barista, does the IQ and achievement gap between blacks and whites persist in developed nations, despite decades of effort at reducing it? You want to talk about race while pouring my latte, Kris? What do you think about the fact that Asians are openly discriminated against in college admissions, where they are penalized an average of 50 points on the SAT when being considered for Princeton? How can we reconcile and understand these discrepancies in group performance, when test bias, stereotype threat, socioeconomic status, nutrition, and education have all been shown, time and time again, to be inadequate explicators? And how on earth can you explain a study like this, which found an unequal distribution of genetic variants associated with educational attainment among races—and that this distribution correlates with the size of the IQ gaps at a staggering 0.9?

Ironically, it is likely that society’s fixation on a single perspective about race has contributed to the entrenched misunderstanding that Starbucks is so magnanimously trying to combat. Consider the belief that race differences in average IQ scores are entirely due to the tests being biased. This explanation is rejected in nearly all recent textbooks about intelligence testing, yet it remains widely popular in society at large. The consequence of this ignorance is truly dire: people below a certain IQ are exempt from the death penalty, but the assumption that IQ tests are culturally biased against blacks means that the IQs of black convicts must be artificially adjusted upwards when ruling on the death penalty. In other words, society’s nescience of a well-established fact about intelligence testing causes more blacks to die than whites, in situations when both their crimes and their IQs are identical.

America has much to learn about race relations that goes far beyond “black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot”. Willful ignorance will not save black lives. What can, at least in part, is a more accurate understanding of the data and their causes, including the statistics which underlie racial disparities in crime rates. The fear, of course, is that these data will be misused to justify racial discrimination. But all empirical truths can be used for harm in the hands of those with bad intentions, and no one would ever claim that, say, virology is bad science because of the potential for bioterrorism. Staying uninformed is the only certain way that nothing valuable can be accomplished. In the words of Charlayne Hunter-Gault: “If people are informed they will do the right thing. It’s when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice.”

So here’s what we do. Why don’t we give our friendly neighborhood social-justice baristas what they claim to want, and engage them in an actual educational dialogue about race relations in America? My suggestion is that members of the HBD community form local meetups at Starbucks all over the U.S., with the intention of facilitating an open discussion on these and related topics in real life, where it cannot be so easily censored. Feel free to bring along any books that are relevant to the data. Enjoy a cup of overpriced, over-roasted joe. Someone might even learn something.

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3 Responses to Guest Post: Let’s Bring the Race Dialogue to Starbucks

  1. nikcrit says:

    I was quite surpised by the initiative. Yeah, of course, the course taken within it was no surprise; I mean, that is rife with potential for ridicule —– but isn’t it amazing that such a large corporate entity would even venture such a potentially dicey gambit? Even while viewing this thing in a solely finacial and business imperative kind of way, it seems to me corporate heads screaming nay would’ve prevailed well before this idea actually got off the ground.

    By my lights, the negatives would be far more likely and far more damaging than any particular benefits that could come from this businesswise. Those aforementioned bits of ‘high-profiled attention’ you cited still may lead to as much.

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