Entitlement is a cup of coffee

11 Nov

The current controversy (yes, controversy) about Starbucks’ new holiday cups is a powerful illustration of entitlement. Here’s the newly designed cup:


Here’s Starbucks explanation of the design, according to their Vice President of Design + Content, Jeffrey Fields:

On color, we have always utilized this “Starbucks red.” We love being able to energize, so we try to target a specific red to be poppy and bright and happy. This year, we focused on the simplicity note regarding design. Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve. I think this year, when we created this cup, we wanted it to have design sensibilities that were sophisticated and iconic but we asked ourselves, “What can we do to give it a little more?” That’s where the ombré effect came into play. What it did really is weight the cup and give it a beautiful intention. It was depth (http://www.coolhunting.com/design/starbucks-holiday-cup-design-2015).

Here’s a reaction to the new design from Joshua Feuerstein, described by US News & World Report as “an evangelist with impressive social media clout”:

Starbucks “removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus” (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2015/11/10/starbucks-faces-backlash-over-plain-red-holiday-cup)

Given that Starbucks is selling “a Christmas blend, whole bean offering” this year, just as it has in years past, I have to challenge to leap to the charge that Starbucks is joining “the war on Christmas” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/09/politics/donald-trump-starbucks-boycott-christmas/index.html).

Yet I actually totally get the backlash to this year’s reindeer-less, fir tree-less and otherwise Xmas-holiday-esque-less design: it’s a perfectly understandable reaction when one is entitled.

Entitlement is basically the misunderstanding that one’s privilege is one’s right. Because my privilege is entirely normal, not just to me but to my community, and has been reinforced to date by my experiences in my community, it is shocking when that privilege is checked.

In this case, we’re talking about the entitlement of religiously and culturally Christian folks, who expect not just an acknowledgment but a celebration of Christmas, even in the most secular and not particularly Christian sectors of life in the US, just because they’re used to it. (Note: I am referring to those religiously and/or culturally Christian folks who feel entitled on this issue, not implying all religious and cultural Christians automatically feel entitled.)

The extremism of the notion of the “war on Christmas” reflects the powerful conditioning of entitlement and the equally powerful conditioning of the privilege that underlies it. And the challenge for all of us, whether our privilege and entitlement stem from religious identity and culture, racial identity and culture, gender identity and culture (ex. calling it “interrupting” when Carly Fiorina does it, but accepting the interjections of all the other men in the debate: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-thinks-fiorina-serial-interrupter-article-1.2430573), class identity and culture or another aspect of our individual and collective sense of self, is to take our outrage as a cue and redirect some of our reaction back on ourselves to ask: What’s going on with me? What do I expect as my right? And what’s actually my privilege, as opposed to my right?

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