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#Awkward – MSNBC Panelist Informs Fellow Panelist that He is Black during Starbucks #RaceTogether Debate

See, Starbucks? See what happens when you try to force strangers to discuss one of the most controversial and awkward subjects while they’re trying to grab a morning coffee?

One of the most awkward scenarios possible on live TV occurred on Tuesday night when, on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, the show turned to Starbucks just announced and slightly controversial #RaceTogether campaign.

If you haven’t yet heard about what Starbucks is doing, they’ve decided that their employees will now look for every opportunity to discuss racial issues with their customers. Sure, it might be awkward. Sure, it might make some people uncomfortable… but that’s what coffee does, right? Makes you uncomfortable? Except, instead of making you uncomfortable on your morning commute… you get to be uncomfortable in the coffee shop before your commute.



Anyway, the campaign itself is pretty awkward, but not as awkward as what ended up taking place on MSNBC.

Chris Hayes (who is very white) invited panelists Nancy Giles from CBS Sunday Morning and Jay Smooth from Race Forward (which is a racial justice advocacy group) to discuss the effort by Starbucks to promote a dialogue about race in America. There was quite a bit of debate about whether or not the campaign was a good idea and how America could move forward… and then this happened.

Host Chris Hayes played a YouTube video of a lecture on race given by panelist Jay Smooth, after which, fellow panelist Nancy Giles joked about the way Smooth tried to talk like he was a black man – evidently presupposing that Smooth is white.

She laughed at the “brotha way he was trying to talk.” To which he responded, “I’m a rap guy!”

“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,” Giles replied, poking fun at his impersonation of a black guy.

“It’s also interesting because I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise,” Smooth replied. “And this is the sort of awkwardness that we can look forward to at Starbucks across America.”

Um… Jay Smooth is not white, Nancy. He’s black.




I personally blame Starbucks. If they’d just mind their own business and keep on making wildly overpriced coffee drinks instead of sticking their nose into our personal beliefs, philosophies and attitudes, I would never have had to watch that embarrassing moment go down.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Onan Coca

Onan is the Editor-in-Chief at Romulus Marketing. He's also the managing editor at, and the managing partner at You can read more of his writing at Eagle Rising.
Onan is a graduate of Liberty University (2003) and earned his M.Ed. at Western Governors University in 2012. Onan lives in Atlanta with his wife and their three wonderful children.

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