Recently, as part of Starbuck’s efforts to start “renewing Starbucks as a place where all people feel welcome,” the chain closed down 8,000 stores “for a conversation and learning session on racial bias” with 175,000 of is employees. A new “Third Place Policy” promotes becoming “Color Brave,” as an alternative to color-blind, wherein a person’s racial identity is not ignored, but rather seen and respected for what it is. “We want to uplift others, we exist to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time” was the stated mission in Starbuck guidebook.
I affirm Starbucks desire to make customers feel “seen,” “respected,” and “uplifted.” But promoting a “Third Place Policy” which would allow anyone to hang out or use the restrooms, regardless of whether they purchase anything seems to me to be rather utopian in its vision. On what basis does Starbucks hope to build an emphasis on being “color brave?”
How do we define a person? “The person is a theological category” maintains James Houston. “The ontology for the person has the awareness of being in the presence of the other.” This takes us back to the garden where a loving, creator God created man in his image. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.
The Christian faith celebrates each person as created uniquely yet different by a personal God who live in perfect. loving relationship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not simply isolated individual. We are never more a person and more real then when we live in relationship with the three-in-one God. The dilemma that Starbucks rightly wants to address is the tragedy of “dis-relationship.” We live separated from ourselves, others and God. A biblical view of reality affirms that only the triune God of grace can provide a metaphysics for relationality of persons.
I rejoice with the Psalmist, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it” (Ps 139:17). But I also must affirm the Psalmist when he acknowledges, “For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5). It is my sin that cause me to be a “self-referencing” man, turned in on myself, threatened by the presence of “the other.” But God has come to my rescue. “But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good – not only ours, but the whole world’s” ( I John 2:2 – Message).
The Spirit of Christ will give me courage to be “color brave.” Being secure in my identity in Christ, helps me to accept the uniqueness of the other. Experiencing the love of God motivates me to be “color brave.” I will fail in my attempts, but I know I can improve with the help of God’s spirit. I desire to not ignore differences but see and respect the other. But I will watch that this does not become another of my spiritual improvement projects, in which I can congratulate myself on being “color brave.” Rather I cry out to God for mercy to lovingly embrace others.
As soulful men we should welcome the Starbucks challenge to be color brave, “wherein a person’s racial identity is not ignored, but rather seen and respected for what it is..” We will be simply following Jesus’ command. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this men will know that you are my disciples, if you love another” ( John 13:34-35).