This is so awesome, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are speaking out against police brutality and anti-black racism. Speaking at their annual franchisee meeting earlier this month in New Orleans, Cohen and Greenfield—who sold Ben & Jerry’s to Unilever Corp. in 2000 but who reportedly remain heavily involved in operations—have publicly declared themselves allies of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Specifically raising awareness about the movement’s “Hands up, don’t shoot”, Cohen urged franchise owners to sell T-shirts benefiting the work of Hands Up United, a grassroots organization founded by St. Louis hip-hop artist and activist Tef Poe and activist Taureen “Tory” Russell.
According to Theroot.com
Cohen spoke the names of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Michael Brown, all unarmed black men and children k!lled by police officers. He also ran a clip of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins responding to criticism he received for wearing a shirt on the field calling for justice for Tamir and Crawford.
To his immense credit, Cohen didn’t equivocate or hide behind politically correct “All Lives Matter” rhetoric, though the corporation would do just that several days later when it distanced itself from the co-founder’s call to action.
“What would Ben and Jerry do at the original shop in the old gas station?” Cohen asked rhetorically, referring to his and Greenfield’s first ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vt. “We’d sell the shirts and do it with pride. You know, I think there will always be injustice, and we are outraged and saddened by it. But it’s in the act of working to end injustice that we find our hearts, our souls and our joy.”
Though this show of solidarity from two prominent Jewish men stands in the shadow of festering tensions between Jewish and African-American communities—stemming in part from the corporatizing and perceived cannibalization of black culture through a version of hip-hop that perpetuates myths about innate black criminality—it is not without historical precedent.
In keeping with that tradition, Cohen took a hard line against the pervasive and instinctive need to protect white supremacy that causes our children’s blood to run warm in streets, stores and parks across the country. This is about more than T-shirts; and the intense racist backlash that Ben & Jerry’s has received on social media, including calls to boycott the corporation, is reflective of a deep-seated bigotry that permeates factions of this country and exposes their need to deny the humanity of black Americans.
In a sociopolitical climate in which black Greek-letter organizations initially refused to allow members to wear paraphernalia to Black Lives Matter protests, billionaire Oprah Winfrey criticized the movement’s direction and President Obama hopscotched over the most sustained social-justice movement in a generation during his 2015 State of the Union address, Cohen’s willingness to place a corporation that he co-founded on the front lines of a racially charged and polarizing justice movement matters.
Despite the unfortunate lack of media coverage, and even though white saviors are neither needed nor desired, Cohen’s statements should be recognized for the bold display of solidarity that they are.
I respect these guys for what they did because I know they’re gonna take a lot of heat for this, but this is awesome…