Caffeine and a Call for Unity

Starbucks CupI’ll admit it. I’m a coffee addict. It’s gotten to the point where I cannot make it through the morning without a headache if I don’t have my coffee. I got a Keurig machine for my birthday and cried. I know it’s bad, but when it comes to drugs of choice, I could be worse off. On rare occasions I will treat myself to the capitalist franchise of Starbucks. Something about their coffee gives me a jolt while also feeding into my inner “basic white girl.” I’m not going to go into the racial politics of fair trade coffee or the socioeconomic privilege offered to people who can afford $5 for a small latte. Instead, I think it is important to delve into their newest branded marketing campaign.

It’s that time of year again when Starbucks chooses to change the outside of their environmentally unfriendly disposable cups. I’m not talking about the iconic red “Holiday” themed cups, notorious for excluding specific religions with its emphasis on Christmas. That cup has been replaced by the “Green Cup.” In this time of political turmoil, the cup is meant to symbolize unity for the country. The image on the cup shows people of different backgrounds and occupations hugging each other so that the outlines of their figures connect seamlessly.

The release of this cup had mixed reviews from the people, some going so far as inciting “Twitter wars” against Starbucks when they felt particularly offended. Some people saw it as a symbol and reminder that we need to respect one another. Other people saw it as an affront on the Republican political campaign to assume that there is a national divide. People took to Twitter to express how they felt the cups were supporting “liberal bias” and saw it as a kind of “political brainwashing” on the part of Starbucks. One person in particular tweeted “Now that beloved diversity has blown up in our faces, the libs @Starbucks have begun shilling for unity. lol,,, how typical.” The person who made this comment was white and that fact is made even more apparent in the way that he feels that the concept of diversity has “blown up in our faces.” Since he does not have to live with racial oppression, he feels as though society has suddenly and abruptly started to care about diversity.

People are allowed to have their opinions on the cups because it is there right as Americans to have freedom of speech. It seems as though Starbucks’ goal of unity has backfired and created even more of a divide between Americans based on their views of the cups. A notable person, the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump had this to say about it, “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks, I don’t know.” He sees the green cups as a personal attack on his political campaign rather than inclusivity of the human race. It is no secret that Trump has said explicitly racist comments in the past, but do the Twitter users know that their comments on the cups also contain racial bias? The views of the population probably think that they only clash with the “liberal” propaganda that the cups express which implicitly calls upon biases that they may have. They may argue that it “isn’t a race thing,” but by outwardly opposing the idea of diversity, they are feeding into attitudes that relate directly to the issue of race in this country.

The artist that created the design had the intention to show a world in which people can get along despite their gender, racial, and political dissimilarities. I would argue that the cup’s design goes against colorblind ideology in its attempt to celebrate the differences that make up the people the United States. For a country facing the decision of who our next leader will be, a coffee cup design seems like a trivial pursuit of energy. However, it is interesting to point out that people’s responses to the cup says a lot about where we are as a country and our views on the idea of unity. Nevertheless, this change in cup design has not prevented people, including myself, from getting their morning cup of Joe.

1 thought on “Caffeine and a Call for Unity”

  1. I was not aware of this change in cup design or the controversy of it, so it makes me happy to hear that Starbucks is making a statement like this. However, I am honestly a little disturbed that people are offended by a cup that symbolizes unity. If someone thinks of a unity cup as something that directly targets their political group, isn’t that a sign that maybe that political group, or at least what that person believes that political group to stand for, isn’t so great? I agree with you on the implications of the reactions to this cup. If people are interpreting this as “political brainwashing,” as in Starbucks is trying to brainwash people to support unity/diversity, then this just represents how deeply in trouble this country is.

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