There is no question that Ben & Jerry’s is the most politically active ice cream company of all time. In the past, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have supported The World Wildlife Fund’s “Fight For the Reef” campaign, Occupy Wall Street, and even the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal. That already puts them in pretty rarefied company. There aren’t many Wal-Mart–stocked products with nuanced perspectives on black nationalism, and yesterday, they tweeted out a link to a lengthy manifesto, detailing their advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Systemic and institutionalized racism are the defining civil rights and social justice issues of our time,” it reads. “We’ve come to understand that to be silent about the violence and threats to the lives and well-being of Black people is to be complicit in that violence and those threats.”
You should read the statement in full, mostly because it’s interesting how thoroughly it avoids the gotta-hear-both-sides emptiness that tends to define every public take on the subject. As far as I know, Ben & Jerry’s are the only for-profit business in America who have come out in brazen support for Black Lives Matter. I don’t know if anyone was really jonesing for an ice cream brand to take a definitive stance on Black Lives Matter, but I’m glad they did. America is full of people who aren’t willing to engage in real questions about racism and privilege unless it’s forced on them. People love to dodge that conversation, and Ben & Jerry’s are making that more difficult.
“We ask people to be open to understanding these issues, and not to reflexively retreat to our current beliefs,” concludes the statement. “Change happens when people are willing to listen and hear the struggles of their neighbor, putting aside preconceived notions and truly seeking to understand and grow. We’ll be working hard on that, and ask you to as well.”