Jay Smooth on Starbucks, race conversations, and just how awkward things can get

March 18, 2015

Like we needed another reason to love FRESH Speaker Jay Smooth.

Last night, Jay was on All In with Chris Hayes discussing the latest Starbucks campaign, “Race Together” that has brought on a lot of criticism over the last few days. And then, this happened (at time stamp 5:20): CBS Sunday Morning‘s Nancy Giles began teasing him for co-opting blackness in his videos. Huh? Via Gawker: 

“Yeah, I know, but it’s another interesting, funny thing about race. Like, there would be some people that feel that you co-opted something like that, and other people might feel like that’s his background and that’s really cool, too,” said Giles, smiling as the road under her ceased existing and she started tumbling down a cliff. “These are conversations, you know, ‘Yo, like ya know, yeah, if somebody takes my wallet,’ I mean it’s really interesting.”

“It’s also interesting because I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise,” said Smooth, whose role in the segment was representing the side against Race Together. “And this is the sort of awkwardness that we can look forward to at Starbucks across America.”

Rather than let the conversation derail, he then brings it back to the core of the problem, and lays it out brilliantly:

“[Starbucks employees] are already too busy to spell anyone’s name correctly on any of the cups and you expect them to be a diversity trainer in this 2-minute transaction with someone who didn’t have their morning coffee yet?…When you hire someone to work behind the counter at Starbucks, you don’t just let them talk to themselves about how to make a cappuccino. You bring in experts to give them structure and a system to do it…Are we giving them information and training on how to have a conversation? I think throwing it out there in a haphazard way is not the way to cure such a serious issue.” 

And that is what a great speaker looks like.

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