By now you’ve likely seen a number of official statements from big corporate entities acknowledging the nationwide protests calling for justice for George Floyd and an end to police violence. For the most part, they’ve been less vague than in years past, which is a good thing. Yesterday, Viacom — which owns Comedy Central and Nickolodeon — suspended programming for a full eight minutes and 46 seconds in tribute to George Floyd and the greater BLM movement, Nike released an ad calling on Americans to recognize that racism is a problem in America (which moved Adidas, their biggest competitor, to re-share it), and the Washington Post reported that companies from Peloton to Netflix issued statements recognizing the need to stand up to the injustices of racism. Companies across the music industry also went dark all day, in what was dubbed #BlackoutTuesday.
Clearly a line is being drawn in the sand and corporations are trying to enter the conversation. For some, the commitment may prove genuine, for others it might be lip service — time (and hiring practices and wages and donations) will tell. For corporations that are still crafting a statement, and there are many right now according to WaPo, Ben & Jerry’s official statement, which was issued yesterday on Twitter, offers a solid reference point. In no uncertain terms, the brand called for the dismantling of white supremacy.
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 2, 2020
“All of us at Ben & Jerry’s are outraged about the murder of another Black person by Minneapolis police officers last week and the continued violent response by police against protestors. We have to speak out,” the statement begins, directly attributing Floyd’s death to the officers involved in his arrest. “The police officer who put his knee on George Floyd’s neck and the police officers who stood by and watched didn’t just murder George Floyd, they stole him,” continues the statement, before taking some time to offer insight into America’s troubling history with race.
“The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane policy brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. 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. 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.”
Additionally, Ben & Jerry’s offered a three-point plan on how we can collectively seek justice for the victims of state-sponsored violence and racism, which included establishing a formal process of nationwide healing and reconciliation, the passage of H.R. 40, which relates to studying appropriate remedies and reparations for people of color, and supporting Floyd’s family’s call for a national task force to draft bipartisan legislation aimed at ending racial violence.
“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.” As the statement nears its close, it reads, “We have to use this moment to accelerate our nation’s long journey towards justice and a more perfect union.”
Ben & Jerry’s — which is owned by the massive consumer goods brand Unilever but retains “autonomous subsidiary” status — has long been a supporter of Black Lives Matter, first issuing public support for the movement in 2016. The company also has a tradition of forward-thinking initiatives, most recently coming to an agreement with migrant workers in Vermont that helped to ensure better working conditions and wages.