Ben & Jerry's Statement Against White Supremacy Is a Reminder That Activism Is Everyone's Responsibility
In the wake of widespread protests that followed the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, many companies have scrambled to make some sort of heartfelt statement about racism and police brutality. McDonald’s president Joe Erlinger promised that his company would hold a town hall and encouraged feedback from his employees on how to improve the popular fast food chain for people of color. Jeff Bezos, who owns Whole Foods and Amazon, shared a Medium essay on Instagram by writer Shenequa Golding about the exhaustion many in the Black community feel trying to juggle demands for professionalism and the trauma of systematic racism. Few companies, however, have released the kind of direct and unapologetic message that Ben & Jerry’s has. This week, the company released a strongly-worded blog post calling on readers and national leaders alike to recognize that George Floyd’s death was the result of white supremacy, adding that “the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end” until white Americans are willing to admit culpability in racist systems and work toward true systems of justice.
“What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent. Floyd is the latest in a long list of names that stretches back to that time and that shore,” Ben & Jerry’s statement reads. “The officers who murdered George Floyd, who stole him from those who loved him, must be brought to justice. At the same time, we must embark on the more complicated work of delivering justice for all the victims of state sponsored violence and racism.”
The blog post, titled “Silence is NOT an option,” also calls for concrete steps toward ending white supremacy in the nation. First, the company asks that President Donald Trump disavow racists and white supremacists publicly and stop promoting their content or ideas on Twitter, something the president has been accused of doing multiple times. Second, the company demanded that Congress pass H.R. 40, a bill which would create a committee to study the long term effects of racism and slavery against Black Americans, and would draft proposals for potential methods of reparation. Third, the company backed the Floyd family’s request for bipartisan legislation that would increase accountability. Lastly, the company asks that the Department of Justice strengthen its civil rights division and reinstate prior policies like consent decrees that are meant to curb police abuse.
Ben & Jerry’s latest statement on the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others is not the first time the company has made statements calling for police abuse to be curbed and racism to be fought with direct action. In 2016, the company released a blog post titled “Why Black Lives Matter” asking customers to be “open to understanding these issues, and not to reflexively retreat to our current beliefs.” The company also names racial justice as one of 11 social issues it’s focusing on, along with climate justice, LGBT equality, and justice system reform. The company has also written several posts aimed not at promoting its delicious trademark product, but instead on educating customers about topics like why there are continued calls for slave reparations and why systematic racism exists.
It’s no secret that many customers feel companies should stay out of topics related to politics or social justice, but Ben & Jerry’s repeated stances on matters outside of ice cream show that activism is everyone’s responsibility. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s argues that businesses have an obligation to fight for social good by teaming up with organizations that combat racial injustice and by funding efforts to reverse systematic inequality. Ben & Jerry’s latest statement against white supremacy is just their latest attempt to make the world a little sweeter.