CBSN

Why you should speak with your Starbucks barista about race

The decision from Starbucks to promote conversations on race in their coffee houses has stirred up Internet users, with criticism and cynicism flooding social media networks. But are critics missing the point?

"Each of us is given a choice - we can be part of the problem, or we can be part of the solution. What Starbucks has chosen to do, even for those who think it might be a little awkward, is to take its resources and be part of a solution. A cup of coffee isn't going to solve that. But a cup of coffee can bring us together to discuss it," historian Janus Adams, one of the first children to desegregate the New York City public schools, said on CBSN.

"I understand the humor of it. But once we really also understand that in America, in the last couple months only, almost once a week we're getting a police shooting of an unarmed black citizen. We begin, as Mark Twain said, not only to know what's funny, but what isn't."

The awkwardness of discussing such a serious topic with a Starbucks barista has been mentioned by critics of the campaign, but to Adams, discomfort is a big reason to have that conversation.

"Discomfort is an excuse. I don't mind you being discomforted by having this conversation. But if we can be uncomfortable with talking about it, imagine the discomfort with living it," Adams said.

She pointed to her experience as an 8-year-old, being spit on and screamed at for attending school.

"Is this Starbucks' battle to fight? Yes. It is the battle of everybody who believes in justice. Dr. King said, 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' The issue isn't 'Is it Starbucks' battle to fight?' It's 'Who's battle is it not?,'" Adams said.

"Is there a right time and a right place to talk about racism? Yes. Every moment that it continues to exist is the right time to confront it. Every place that it can be confronted is the place to confront it."