RACE: We need to talk

My initial reaction to the Starbuck story was wow, followed by are you mad?

I agree with CEO Howard Schultz, we need to talk about race, however at business? envision long lines heated discussions, with regular Starbucks customers caught in the middle.

I have a child who works for Starbucks.   Like their father, they have strong opinions and they are not intimidated by discussions of race.

Race is one of those polarizing issues. People are passionate because they want to be understood and because of this passion (that some confuse with anger) people are afraid of the topic.

For nearly ten years I have played cards with a wonderful group of people.  I am the only person of color in the group. In fact, I think I’m the” black” person they know.

Through the years we have shared many personal stories and despite our history, race is an area we haven’t touched.  Even when we discuss the president, some of the group is uncomfortable as if the President was my relative.  I’m sure they talk about race in my absence.

Starbucks CEO Wants Employees to Talk about race




This is 2015 Right? 

I’ve never lived in a mono community.   My friends come in many hues and backgrounds.   I was part of the second wave of integration in the 60’s and 70’s.   As a child, we knew we weren’t welcome in the homes of our friends and it didn’t matter.  What mattered was our friendship, some I’ve maintained for more than 40 years.  I do see color and it doesn’t matter.

It was important that my children lived in a multicultural community.  People who live in South Natomas, or South Sacramento are less fearful of people who don’t look like them then those who live in the mono suburbs.

Recently I at a venue with friends in the Bay Area.  I was sharing story of a large Chinese wedding  that I recently attended and making light hearted comparisons of this weddings with weddings of other groups and backgrounds.

See Hooked on Stereotypes


One person, a very attractive black woman in her early forties took my breath away as she a study in stereotypes. From Asians, knowing Kung foo, to all Italians being in the Mafia to Jews being cheap, I was astounded.    If it were 30 years earlier I would be standing on a table screaming at her making everyone uncomfortable.  I have matured and asked her about her background.

I learned she was from the southeast.  She was born and raised in a black community, and despite her education and work environment, all of her interactions are with black people.  She seemed to be a little suspicious of the blacks who were interacting with whites at the venue.

Her story is more common than not. Most neighborhoods are segregated.  It is uncommon for whites to move into minority neighborhoods.

The importance of Dialogue

I’ll say it again.  I do see color.  I am very aware when I am the only black or person of color at an event.   Because of interactions with other groups, I am not uncomfortable being the only black person.   I’ve learned we have more in common than less.

Talking with non blacks I’ve learned why some people are uncomfortable communicating with someone who doesn’t look like them.

Learned not to lay in wait for someone to make a mistake and attack because most people aren’t malicious, they simply don’t know any better.

Learned to give myself a break, because of  I don’t know all the cultural and social norms or every group in the world  AND and to ask questions.

Silence breeds misunderstanding forcing some to rely on stereotypes.

I’ve learned most people are honored that you genuinely want to know about them and their background/culture.

However, we must think and pause before we ask .  There are incendiary questions. We must think and pause before we ask .   How many different daddies?  Are you legal?  Is everyone in your family rich?  Are you a member of the Taliban?  Where you molested as a child? 

When people talk they begin to understand and in short time of those racial barriers begin to fade.  You learn, that you don’t need to know their language(ebonics) or take a crash course on slang.  You simply come as you are.