Posted by Tyler Hustwick 3 years, 3 months ago

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Following its highly criticized #RaceTogether campaign, which asked baristas to initiate conversations about racial tensions with customers, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that the coffee chain will be opening its first store in Ferguson, Missouri. Recently, Ferguson has been at the epicenter of a national debate surrounding racial inequality following the fatal shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson. 

The new cafe will be the first Starbucks location in Ferguson. Although, the company has several locations in nearby Jennings and Florissant, MO. and six stores in the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Schultz told Fortune that the decision to open a Ferguson location is a way to create employment in the beleaguered community of Ferguson and is part of the company’s plan to build more stores in urban neighborhoods. The US Census Bureau recently reported a 15.7% unemployment rate for African Americans in Missouri, contrasted by 4.5% for caucasians.

This announcement comes on the heels of Starbucks’ recent commitment to hire 10,000 “opportunity youths” over the next three years, described as 16 to 24-year olds who are out of school or unemployed, and to hire 10,000 military veterans and active duty military spouses over the next five years. This is in addition to the company's “ambitious plans to have at least 25,000 college graduates by 2025 through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan program”, which it announced in a press release earlier this month. “Doing what is right for society and what is right for business cannot be mutually exclusive endeavors. Today more than ever, companies such as Starbucks must use their resources to create opportunities for their people as well as for the communities they serve,” said Schultz.

It appears that Starbucks is taking the necessary steps to recover from the fumbled “Race Together” campaign. The initiative received tremendous ridicule on social media shortly after its inception, as critics questioned the appropriateness and timeliness of the campaign. Although Starbucks quickly responded by asking its baristas to stop writing “Race Together” on customers’ cups, the botched campaign left a sour taste in the mouthes of many. While some may argue that Starbucks is simply looking to capitalize on the hot button topic of racial inequality, but it appears Schultz and his company are truly looking to make a more meaningful contribution to the community than simply fulfilling our coffee fix.

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