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Starbucks Racist for Offering Red-Skinned Cups During Native American Heritage Month?

Starbucks red cup
Starbucks red cup, November 10, 2015, Washington, D.C. |

For billions of people, Starbucks is synonymous with overpriced caffeinated products, free Wi-Fi, and mainstream hipsterdom.

However, some — mostly people who have way too much free time — say the company is serving up a grande cup of scolding hot racism.

The ridiculously omnipresent coffee chain has come under fire from some Indian-American rights groups over its decision to have red-skinned coffee cups during Native American Heritage Month.

One customer, who may or may not be 0.0005 percent Choctaw, said she was outraged when she discovered the cups.

"I didn't know what to say," she replied, holding one of the crimson-colored emblems of a more racially charged past.

Saints & Strangers
National Geographic's "Saints and Strangers" is a four-hour miniseries about the 1620 voyage of the Pilgrims to the New World and their first Thanksgiving with Native Americans. It stars "Apocalypto" actor Raoul Trujillo, Tatanka Means of "Banshee" and Kalani Queypo of "The New World." The two-night event premieres on November 22, 2015. |

"I mean, why did they think it was a good idea to have red-skinned cups at a time when the nation is honoring indigenous Americans?"

"As a culturally conscious company, Starbucks must know that November is Native American Heritage Month," added another customer. "So for them to introduce red cups during November must mean they are poking fun at Indian-Americans."

In recent years, various advocacy groups have taken issue with what they view as the last vestiges of imagery that's racist against Native Americans.

These include the Cincinnati Reds, the Washington Redskins, scenes from the movie "Peter Pan," and assorted high school mascots.

For many within this movement, Starbucks' decision to make their cup red-skinned was a shocking betrayal, declaring that Starbucks has launched a "War on Indians."

"I expect far better from Starbucks," said one former customer. "This is going to greatly hinder race relations in America."

Others have always felt there was something ethnically insensitive about the chain, pointing to the clearly stereotypical names they use for their products.

"Starbucks has a long history of being culturally insensitive," remarked one social media activist who recently started the Facebook group "Bury My Starbucks at Wounded Knee."

"Just look at their menu: 'Brulée Latte,' 'Praline Latte,' 'Caffè Misto'? These are clearly mean-spirited swipes at European cultural identities. Clearly!"

In addition to a proposed boycott, some have taken to telling baristas that their names are "Respect Native Americans" so that the phrase gets put on their scarlet-hued cups.

This is not the first time Starbucks has found itself brewing controversy over racial attitudes and sensitivities.

Earlier this year, the company briefly launched the "Race Together" campaign, which encouraged baristas to talk to customers about race relations.

"It was really weird," recalled one patron. "I ordered a coffee with cream and the women behind the counter asked me why I felt so desperate to make my coffee whiter."

"She then went on to say that black coffee was equally good and should be treated with the same respect. At that point I just walked away."

Regarding the possible racist underpinnings for having red cups during Native American Heritage Month, a Starbucks spokesperson provided a statement.

"We here at Starbucks serve all sorts of people, and respect all persons regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or national origin," said Starbucks.

"We strive to create the best possible cup of expensive, mass-produced oddly-named coffee for all people."

When asked for further comment about the specific outrage over the red cups, the spokesperson said that they would "serve all sorts of people, and respect all persons regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or national origin."

"We strive to create the best possible cup of expensive, mass-produced oddly-named coffee for all people," continued the spokesperson.

Further attempts to get a substantive response simply involved an increasingly annoyed spokesperson repeating the same stuff over and over again.


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