Howard Schultz 'Doesn't See Race,' Is Stupid About Other Things Too

Post-Racial America
Howard Schultz 'Doesn't See Race,' Is Stupid About Other Things Too

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is maybe, possibly, running for president as an "independent centrist" and someone apparently advised him that the path to the White House involves repeatedly demonstrating that he's a clueless moron. Guess it worked for the current guy.

CNN, for no good reason, devoted an entire town hall last night to a man who hasn't even declared he's running for president and has no identifiable base of support beyond the rich asshole demographic. His current polling numbers plainly reveal that he'll never be president or ever hold an elected office, because he's annoying. But he's "independent"! And he's got "ideas." Remember how he recently fixed health care with platitudes treaclier than a pumpkin spice latte? Now, he's moved on to the gun debate. We're not making progress, see, because everyone is so "partisan." The "far right" wants gun everywhere, and the "far left" wants to replace everyone's guns with love beads. The last part is a lie.

SCHULTZ: The far left wants to do everything possible to remove guns completely. I am in the middle

Yes, you're in the middle of an NRA talking point. Just when you think this town hall couldn't get any dumber, Schultz offers his solution to racism. He probably came up with this one while bouncing ideas off his limo driver.

White people should really stop saying they don't see color. It's not a compliment. It's a plainly racist assertion that implies the color of someone's skin isn't noteworthy or even a positive attribute. Imagine someone saying, "I don't see hair color. Marilyn Monroe was blonde? Really? Oh, now I get it: Gentlemen prefer her."

Race is in fact a relevant trait. No one demonstrates their cosmopolitan open-mindedness by absurdly claiming they don't hear different languages. "I have no idea Germans exist or talk differently than me. I thought they all had the same speech impediment and I was too polite to mention it."

Studies have shown that the "color-blind" claim is wishful nonsense. Children notice differences in skin color, hair texture, and body type fairly early. You don't have to enroll them in some exclusive racist pre-school for this to happen. Viewing these differences as negative or "wrong" is what parents must actively teach against, but that means acknowledging them. Don't recoil in horror if your child observes that your friend has kinky hair or full lips. Talk to them about it. Celebrate differences. And occasionally mention that blackface is bad.

Schultz's claim that he "didn't see color" as a child or an adult isn't in any way honest. It's willfully delusional. It's also a weird comment from someone who forced PR-friendly "wokeness" on his staff with his dumbass "Race Together" promotion back in 2015. Baristas had the "option" of starting dialogues about race with customers who just wanted their damn grande americano. How did the Ray Charles of race expect this to go down? "Hi, I'm Karen. I don't see color because I don't want to confront even my own passive role in institutional racism. Here's your overpriced shit coffee. Also, I don't know why exactly, but your very presence makes me uncomfortable. Please leave the premises before I call the police."

Schultz flat-out lacks the humility or self-reflection to consider that his high-minded, oh-so-Seattle approach to race is likely what led to a company culture where one of his store managers had black men hauled off to jail for existing within range of a clover press. We're fairly certain Schultz's successor didn't start hiring Klan members. The store manager responsible probably insisted that they "didn't see color," either. That didn't make them immune to unconscious bias, which is currently a greater and more consistent threat to black people than cross burnings.

On his old Comedy Central show, Stephen Colbert played a character so oblivious to his own privilege as a white man he'd frequently proclaim that he "didn't see race." It was a running gag, like Johnny Carson's "How hot was it?" jokes on "The Tonight Show."

You'd think Steve Schmidt, with all his Sarah Palin-elevating wisdom, would've known enough to advise Schultz to avoid sounding like the "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot" Colbert played for almost a decade. So far, they've only succeeded in making clear to us that Schultz isn't all that "well-intentioned."

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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