AFRICANGLOBE – The director of the global coffee company Starbucks has revealed that she was once mistaken for kitchen help while attending a major business meeting in New York.
Mellody Hobson, also the director of DreamWorks Animation and Groupon, had arranged a lunch date with the editorial board of one of the most successful media companies in the world and the Black democratic politician Harold Ford back in 2006.
When they arrived to the meeting, both Hobson and Ford, who were dressed in full business attire, were ushered through a series of corridors by the company receptionist and then asked where their “uniforms” were.
Speaking at a recent TED Talks conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, the 45-year-old wife of film director George Lucas said she was initially shocked at being mistaken for kitchen staff, but had to admit that overall, she was not surprised.
“In many ways the moment caught me off guard,” she said in the 14-minute video, “but deep, deep down inside, I actually wasn’t surprised.”
“I wasn’t surprised because of something my mother taught me, she was ruthlessly realistic…at the age of seven she looked me in the eyes and told me ‘they will not always treat you well.”
Hobson continued to explain that talking about race in America is conversational the equivalent of being electrocuted.
“Race is one of those topics in America that makes people extraordinarily uncomfortable. You bring it up at a dinner party or work place environment and it is literally the conversational equivalent of touching the third rail, there is shock and then a long silence.”
Asking people not to be colour blind, but colour brave, Hobson says diversity in her companies make them one of the most valuable and productive in the world.
She also asked the audience to observe their environment “purposefully and intentionally” in order to learn something new, the business woman went on to joke about her interracial marriage with the Star Wars creator.
“Like my husband, who happens to be White, you might learn that Black people, men, women, children, we use body lotion every single day.”
Last year the couple welcomed their daughter Everest into the world. She is the first biological child for both Lucas – who has three adopted children – and Hobson and was born in August 2013 via surrogacy.
Mellody Hobson: Color Blind Or Color Brave?