The renowned ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s released a statement on June 3 titled, “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy.”
The statement began by condemning the death of George Floyd; Floyd died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee onto the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Four officers have been charged in the incident, which sparked nationwide unrest.
“What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning,” the statement read. “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.”
The statement called for justice against the four officers at the scene of Floyd’s death and outlined a series of steps the ice cream company thinks needs to be taken to address white supremacy.
“We call upon President Trump, elected officials, and political parties to commit our nation to a formal process of healing and reconciliation,” the statement said. “Instead of calling for the use of aggressive tactics on protestors, the President must take the first step by disavowing white supremacists and nationalist groups that overtly support him, and by not using his Twitter feed to promote and normalize their ideas and agendas.”
The statement also called for legislation creating a commission to investigate the history of racism and discrimination in the United States, establishing a task force to address police brutality and hate crimes and for “the Department of Justice to reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division as a staunch defender of the rights of Black and Brown people.”
“Unless and until white America is willing to collectively acknowledge its privilege, take responsibility for its past and the impact it has on the present, and commit to creating a future steeped in justice, the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end,” the statement concluded.
Ben & Jerry’s statement was met with praise on Twitter.
“On my way to buy @benandjerrys and I’m lactose intolerant,” tweeted African American actor Jay Ellis.
— Jay Ellis (@JayREllis) June 3, 2020
Shinjini Das, CEO of Das Media Group, similarly tweeted, “Ben and Jerry’s had balls to use the words ‘BLACK’ and ‘WHITE SUPREMACY’ in their official corporate statement. I don’t even like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that much, but I might try it out more because I have newfound respect for a company that has the balls to call out truth.”
Ben and Jerry's had balls to use the words "BLACK" and "WHITE SUPREMACY" in their official corporate statement. I don't even like Ben and Jerry's ice cream that much, but I might try it out more because I have newfound respect for a company that has the balls to call out truth 🍨
— Shinjini Das (@SpeakerShinjini) June 3, 2020
Tom Slater of The Spectator, on the other hand, noted that the statement from Ben & Jerry’s, which was founded by two friends in Vermont in 1978 and has been owned by multinational corporation Unilever since 2000, is part of a recent trend of “woke capitalism” in which corporations are weighing in on social justice issues.
“It is still highly irritating and reflective of a capitalist class increasingly gripped by the conviction that it must lecture as well as serve customers,” Slater argued. “It’s also hard not to see a lot of this as a thin cover for the kinds of exploitation many of these companies are engaging in, whether it be the conditions of Amazon workers or the fact that Spotify continues to pay many of its artists (black, white and otherwise) a pittance.”
He added: “In response to injustices like that which befell George Floyd, we are not expected to enter into a robust debate about how to improve the lot of those at the bottom rung of society. We are invited to share hashtags, mouth platitudes and signal our virtue. We’ve heard a lot in recent days about historical pain, but precious little about what comes next.”
The co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have cited their Jewish roots for their social justice activism. Greenfield said during a 2011 Jewish Federation of Greater Washington event “that his religious education helped sensitize him to discrimination, marginalization and the needs of ‘other people in society and around the world,’ ” according to Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In 2018, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it was adding a “Pecan Resist” flavor and it was partnering with various progressive organizations, including the Women’s March, Inc. Some Women’s March leaders at the time were being criticized for their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan but in 2019, the march distanced itself from Farrakhan, cutting ties with co-chairs Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory.