Op-Ed

What if Starbucks' 'Race Together' had caught on in corporate America?

If Big Cookies, Big Oil and Big Banks were as racially clumsy as Starbucks

Howard D. Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, said in a letter to employees on Sunday that baristas would no longer be encouraged to write the phrase "Race Together" on customers' coffee cups, drawing to a close a widely derided component of the company's plan to promote a discussion on racial issues. — New York Times

EAST HANOVER, N.J. — What started as an effort to spark a discussion on race in America has turned into a firestorm of social media anger this week after food giant Nabisco plastered the slogan "Whites surrounded by blacks!" on every package of Oreos on Monday.

Corporate and religious groups, as well as the White House, have condemned the campaign. Boycotts began in 12 states.

A Nabisco spokesman, Ted Knudsen, said, "Some have asked why a cookie company is talking about racism. If not a cookie company, then who? The Oreo is black on the outside but white on the inside. It's a wonderful cookie, unlike racism, which is largely bad. Here at Nabisco, we have both black people and white people who make the cookies. When they hug — say it's two black people hugging one white person, we call that an Oreo hug. Though HR technically forbids it."

Knudsen added, "This is bigger than a black cookie or a white cookie. Consider Chips Ahoy. What is a Chips Ahoy if not a blond cookie infused with blackness? If that's not racial harmony then I don't know what is." — Associated Press

---

The oil giant BP launched a public relations campaign this week aimed at combating racism. But the tag line, "BP: Black People," has mostly caused confusion and offense.

BP's chief executive released a statement Wednesday. "I literally had no idea we were even doing this. That said, we at BP feel strongly that people here in America should talk about racism because sometimes when there's a lull in a conversation you can say something like 'How about those black people,' or 'Hey, look over there at those white people with their sweaters on.' And then see what the other person says."

The outcry caused BP to hold a news conference Thursday from its London headquarters via Skype. Company spokeswoman Fern Mulberry said: "I've been asked if BP now stands for Black People. BP does not stand for black people. Let me rephrase that. We stand for, we support black people. And white people. We like both very much. Do we like one more than the other? No. Maybe whites. We like people. Ha ha.

"The important thing here is that our marketing team and partners in PR and advertising felt it was high time to rebrand the B and the P so that consumers and lawmakers would see how much we care about people talking about racism. I would add that the letters BP can also stand for Blimp Pimple, Bloated Puppy and Boring Person. Are there any questions?" — Times-Picayune

---

"Let's lose the race against racism together!" So said Franklin Teel, chief executive of military contractor Lockheed Martin at its annual shareholders meeting in Washington.

In a surprise speech after announcing the company's quarterly earnings, Teel veered from his prepared remarks and announced a campaign to eradicate racism through the use of laser-guided missiles and drone strikes.

"There's a new arms race today and it's the race against racism and no one wins that race because it's not a race anyone wants to win so let's lose it together," Teel said to confused applause and a smattering of boos.

"We want to get people talking about racism. Not racing. Let's stop racing around everywhere. I'm white. Maybe you're black. So what. Slow down. Don't race. What if you fall down because you're racing too fast and a white person wants to help you up? Take my white hand. Together, we can lose this race. I know. I've lost so many races in my life. Sometimes I feel like I'm 12 and no one wants to play with me. Heck, we can kill terrorists with these darned drone strikes. Why not racists? I'm just saying."

Teel was escorted offstage by security. — Washington Post

---

NEW YORK — JPMorgan Chase Bank found itself hot water today when it released a new public service campaign. The words "Chase this you racist jerk" now appear on the company's home page, as well as on its deposit and withdrawal slips.

A bank spokesperson tried to explain the new tag line.

"Chase is more than a bank. We're a place with customers who are white and black and also Indian and Asian but we're not going to deal with that right now. And unfortunately we have some customers who are racists. So we now want to chase them from the bank. Because our name is Chase. You're getting this, yes?

"For example, let's say a racist enters the bank and is waiting in line, doing something racist. Some of the tellers will come out from behind the counter and chase them and maybe beat them with a sack of cash. Not hurt them, mind you, but certainly give them pause about ever entering our bank again. Although we would urge our racist customers to use one of our thousands of ATMs nationwide." — Reuters

John Kenney is the author of the novel "Truth in Advertising," which won the 2014 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
71°