The Real Issue With Starbucks’ Red Cups

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I’ve seen so many articles about the “outrage” that is this winter’s Starbucks red cups.

I’ve seen it mostly on Buzzfeed, which seems an appropriate vehicle for this story, but also on news sites like CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, CNNMoney, and the rest of the hefty news sources you can see for yourself in this screenshot.

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The thing is, all of this reporting takes the Buzzfeed approach, making a complete mockery of every complaint.

Which is good. Because tweets like this one (ty Buzzfeed) are entirely ridiculous.

I am so tired of the PC BS now @Starbucks is PC-ing Christmas! Really? How about this #boycottstarbucks #MerryChristmasStarbucks

— ReneeB (@Nay0510)

But none of these sites are talking about why this reaction is so ridiculous. The Buzzfeed article this is lifted from is written like a tumblr post, so not much hope there to begin with but CNBC? The Wall Street Journal? Even Huff Po? These are places where very educated an talented reporters and columnists are employed yet none of them are able to do much about this story besides cite tweets. Which would be one thing if this outrage we merely ridiculous. But I don’t think it is.

What the backlash that Starbucks is experiencing is, is a select few Christians (which has proven to be a lot, but is still only a vocal minority) have taken offense to the seasonal holidays not be immediately indicative of Christmas.

Christians feeling marginalized for not being the center of attention.

This is a toxic reaction. This is indicative of a bigger problem. One that has been around for hundreds of years. A few members of Christianity assuming that Christianity is the only way and forcing it into the cultural lexicon. Of course some silly tweets are nothing like hijacking a Pagan holiday or declaring Jews lesser for not receiving the true Christ… but it’s likely it’s this same minority of Christians that feels justified in creating legislation (anti-choice, discriminatory marriage laws, etc.) based in religious belief. It is the confusion of the line between personal religious belief and inflicted religious presence.

Why would a Christian who is used to be represented by Starbucks in the holiday time and now feels slighted ever make these connections? They wouldn’t. Christmas is the biggest American holiday of the year, and is becoming rapidly secularized by consumerism, ex: Starbucks using holiday imagery to sell drinks.

Why this is concerning, however, is because this imagery is snowflakes and reindeer. Starbucks cups have never depicted Mary and Joseph or Baby Jesus’ birth. So why does Christianity take such precedence over other denominations in the wintertime? Don’t get me wrong– even as a Hannukah celebrating Jew, I LOVE Christmas, like as much as Santa loves making toys, but the reason it’s surprising no one is talking about this “twitter-outrage” in the context of religious privilege implies that this reaction isn’t necessarily unacceptable. Because we’re accepting it. This reaction is newsworthy. Not only are winter animals and imagery owned by Christians, but it is something we are talking about when they are not represented by these images. The majority reasserting their dominance over other religious beliefs. (A select few) Christians being upset by a coffee shop attempting to be welcoming of all religious beliefs–even secular ones–are voices we feel are justified enough to amplify via our main news outlets.

It is this treatment of a story like this that makes room for a reaction like this. Rather than questioning the foundations we have built and continue to build as a culture that allow for Christians to feel marginalized when really they “endure” the same neutrality that we all experience as any other type of religious or nonreligious person. I don’t have any answers to any of the questions I pose here. I think we are a people who have built ourselves an empire on very shaky foundation, in many ways. I think any problems of privilege or discrimination or marginalization, we have all contributed to. I wish we could all take this opportunity to ask ourselves how we continue to contribute to it. Are we happy living in a society where when the dominant demographic is not the center of attention, they throw a fit, and we all scramble over ourselves to hear them?
(edit: this article was published the day after this was posted and is worth a read.)

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