Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-dxj8b Total loading time: 0.461 Render date: 2023-01-31T04:34:38.195Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true


Starbucks, Consumption and the Appeal of the Performance of Colorblindness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2010

Bryant Simon*
Department of History and American Studies, Temple University
Professor Bryant Simon, Department of History, Temple University, 913 Gladfelter Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122. E-mail:


This enthographically-based essay uses the case of Starbucks and the company's diversity policies and relationship with Magic Johnson to explore the desire for postracialism in post Civil Rights—post Martin Luther King, Jr. and post protest—mainstream America. Where did this desire come from and how did corporate America package this desire? What is the relationship between the selling of postracialism and voting for Barack Obama? What are the implications of these marketing moves? What do they tell us about business and about ourselves?

State of the Discipline
Copyright © W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Anderson, Elijah (1990). Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Elijah (2004). The Cosmopolitan Canopy. Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science, 595(September): 1431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2006) Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Applebaum, Benjamin (2006). Hoping Coffee Creates Magic. Charlotte Observer, July 22.Google Scholar
Archibold, Randal C. (2005). Compton Journal: For a City Enshrined in Rap, Victory is a Starbucks Latte. New York Times, October 9. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Barber, Benjamin (2007). Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Bishop, Bill (2007). The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like Minded People is Tearing Us Apart. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
Bobo, Lawrence D. and Smith, Ryan A. (1998). From Jim Crow Racism to Laissez-Faire Racism: The Transformation of Racial Attitudes. In Katkin, Wendy F., Landsman, Ned, and Tyree, Andrea (Eds.) Beyond Pluralism: The Conception of Groups and Group Identities in America, pp. 182220. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2004). Racism without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Bordieu, Pierre (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of Judgment of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Boyer, Peter J. (2008). The Color of Politics. The New Yorker, February 4, p. 38.Google Scholar
Brown, Michael K., Carnoy, Martin, Currie, Elliott, Duster, Troy, Oppenheimer, David B., Shultz, Marjorie M., and Wellman, David (2003). Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Cashin, Sheryll (2004). The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
Chun, Janean (1998). Making Magic. Entrepreneur, July. ⟨⟩ (accessed May 5, 2010).Google Scholar
Clark, Taylor (2007). Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture. New York: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Conley, Lucas (2008). OBD: Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion. New York: Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group.Google Scholar
Countryman, Matthew (2006). Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Davids, Kenneth (1998). The Starbucks Paradox. Coffee Journal (Autumn): 53, 60.Google Scholar
DiversityInc. (2006). The DiversityInc. Top Fifty Companies for Diversity, April 17. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Douglas, Mary and Isherwood, Baron (1979). The World of Goods. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Duneir, Mitchell (1999). Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.Google Scholar
Eikenberry, Angela M. (2009). The Hidden Costs of Cause Marketing. Stanford Social Innovation Review, (Summer): 5155.Google Scholar
Ethan (2008). “Do latte drinkers really vote for Obama,”, April 15.Google Scholar
Fahim, Kareem (2008). To Starbucks, A Closing To Newark, A Trauma. The New York Times, July 23.Google Scholar
Fellner, Kim (2004). The Starbucks Paradox. Color Lines, Spring 2004.⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Fellner, Kim (2008). Wresting with Starbucks: Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
Field, John (2008). Social Capital. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Fiske, John (1989). Reading the Popular. Boston, MA: Urwin Hyman.Google Scholar
Fitzgerald, Tamara (1999). Giant on a Neighborhood Court. Seattle Times, June 12.Google Scholar
Florida, Richard (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class, and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Forsythe, Jason (2005). Leading with Diversity (Special Advertising Feature). The New York Times. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Fortune (2008). America's Most Admired Companies. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Freeman, Lance (2006). There Goes the 'Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Garcia, Sara (2005). Starbucks Offers Big Taste of Hopes Fulfilled. Indianapolis Star, July 13.Google Scholar
Gelman, Andrew and Sides, John (2009). Stories and States: The Truth About Obama's Victory Wasn't in the Papers. Boston Review, September/October. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 22, 2010).Google Scholar
Gill, Michael Gates (2007). How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else. New York: Gotham Books.Google Scholar
Gilmore, Glenda (2008). Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little Brown.Google Scholar
Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little Brown.Google Scholar
Gobé, Marc (2001). Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People. New York: Allworth Press.Google Scholar
Hall, Jacquelyn D. (2005). The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. Journal of American History, 91(March): 12331263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilton College (1999). Racial Attitudes of Young Americans. ⟨⟩ (accessed May 4, 2010).Google Scholar
Hartocollis, Anemona (2002). Coping: Gazing Into a Coffee Shop and Seeing the World. The New York Times, September 29.Google Scholar
Hyra, Derek S. (2008). The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Jackson, John L. (2003). Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Jackson, Walter A. (1994). Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 1938–1987. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Jamieson, Robert J. Jr. (2001). Shooting Unleashes Torrent of Emotions. Seattle Post-Intelligence, June 14.Google Scholar
Jeffries, Stuart (2006). Risky Business. The Guardian, February 11.Google Scholar
King, Samantha (2006). Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Kipling, Rudyard (1982). The Portable Kipling. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
Klein, Naomi (2000). No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs. New York: Picador.Google Scholar
Korstad, Robert (2007). Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Kuntman, Gersh (1999a). Starbucks Goes Uptown. New York Post, May 6.Google Scholar
Kuntman, Gersh (1999b). Earvin's Magic Bullet. New York Post, May 9.Google Scholar
Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia (2000). Revisiting Inner-City Strips: A Framework for Community and Economic Development. Economic Development Quarterly, 14(May): 165181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lury, Celia (2000). The United Colors of Diversity. In Franklin, Sarah, Lury, Celia, and Stacey, Jackie (Eds). Global Nature, Global Culture: Race and Life Itself, pp. 146187. New York: Sage Publications, Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Massey, Douglas and Denton, Nancy (1998). American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
McCracken, Grant (1988). Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Good and Activities. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
McGrath, Ben (2006). The Latte Class. The New Yorker, January 9. ⟨⟩ (accessed May 5, 2010).Google Scholar
Micheletti, Michele and Stolle, Dietlind (2007). Mobilizing Consumers to Take Responsibility for Global Social Justice. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 611(May): 158175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
More, Martha (1999). Marketers Take Note of Blacks. USA Today, August 20.Google Scholar
Myrdal, Gunner (1996). An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy. New York: Transaction Press.Google Scholar
Nickel, Patricia M. and Eikenberry, Angela M. (2009). A Critique of the Discourse of Marketized Philanthropy. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(7): 974989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oldenburg, Ray (1993). The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, and Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. New York: Marlowe & Company.Google Scholar
Orfield, Gary and Eaton, Susan (1996). Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
Plant, E. A. and Devine, P. G. (1998). Internal and External Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(September): 811832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Platt, Larry (2000). Magic Johnson Empire. New York Times Sunday Magazine, December 10.Google Scholar (2008). A Reverse Bradley Effect. January 4. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 22, 2010).Google Scholar
Putnam, Robert (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ramirez, Anthony (1999). A Caffe Latte Spot on West 125th Street. New York Times, April 28.Google Scholar
Remnick, David (2008). The Joshua Generation: Race and the Campaign of Barack Obama. The New Yorker, November 17. ⟨⟩ (accessed May 10, 2010).Google Scholar
Roediger, David (2008). Race Will Survive the Obama Phenomenon. The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 10.Google Scholar
Rossman, Marlene (1994) Multicultural Marketing. New York: American Management Association.Google Scholar
Schuman, Howard, Steeh, Charlotte, Bobo, Lawrence D., and Krysan, Maria (1997). Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Severson, Kim (2008). “Studying the Intersection of Politics and Pantry,” New York Times, April 16.Google Scholar
Sherry, John F. Jr. (1983). Gift Giving in Anthropological Perspective. Journal of Consumer Research 10(September): 157168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sides, Josh (2005). Corporate Retailers and the American Ghetto: How Starbucks May Help Save South Central. The Next American City, November. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Silver, Nate (2009). Obama Outperforms Kerry Among Virtually all Groups. FiveThirtyEight, November 6. ⟨⟩ (accessed April 21, 2010).Google Scholar
Simon, Bryant (2009). Everything But the Coffee: Learning about America From Starbucks. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Simon, Bryant (2010). Why Voting for Obama Was Like Buying a Starbucks Latte. The, February 22.Google Scholar
Skocpol, Theda (1996). Unraveling from Above. The American Prospect, 25(March–April): 2025.Google Scholar
Slater, Don (1977). Consumer Culture and Modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Smith, Eric L. (1999). The Magic Touch! Black Enterprise, May, p. 74.Google Scholar
Smith, Neil (1979). Toward a Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital Not People. Journal of the American Planning Association, 45: 538548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spielman, Fran (2004). Magic Partnership Brings Starbucks to the South Side. Chicago Sun-Times, September 23.Google Scholar
Starbucks (2006). Press Release: Starbucks Invites Customers to D-I-S-C-O-V-E-R the Inspiring Film ‘Akeelah and the Bee’. April 2. ⟨⟩ (accessed May 6, 2010).Google Scholar
Steele, Shelby (2006).White Guilt: How Black and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
Sugrue, Thomas (2008). Sweet Land of Liberty. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Tatum, Beverly D. (1997). Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
The New York Times (2004). A Latte to Go and $4BN Turnover S'il Vous Plaît, January 25.Google Scholar
Thomas, David A. (2004). Diversity as Strategy. Harvard Business Review 82(September): 98.Google ScholarPubMed
Torres, Blanca (2004). Central to Business. Seattle Times, October 24.Google Scholar
Veblen, Thorstein (2008). The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Youde, Jeremy (2009). Ethnical Consumerism and Reified Neoliberalism? Product (Red) and Private Funding for Public Goods. New Political Science, 31(June): 201220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *